Monday, July 19, 2010

My Name is Memory

"Please try to believe me," I said. "This didn't happen by accident. You have been with me from the very first life. You are my first memory every time, the single thread in all of my lives. It's you who makes me a person."

-- Daniel to Constance, England 1918 
I enjoyed Ann Brashares' previous book, The Last Summer (of You and Me) and was excited to read her latest release, My Name is Memory, which has a very unique storyline. The main character, Daniel, is able to remember all his past lives and also has the ability to recognize souls from one life to another. In each life he searches for Sophia, the woman he loves, sometimes going for hundreds of years without running into her. Sometimes Sophia is reborn as a young girl; sometimes she is an old woman at the time that Daniel is a little boy; in one life Sophia was a nurse (Constance) who cared for Daniel, a soldier. No matter what her name, age, or appearance, Daniel recognizes her soul and continues to refer to her as Sophia. In all his different lives Daniel eventually requests to be called Daniel, the name he had in his first life in 520 A.D. The book is arranged so that the chapters alternate between Daniel's past lives and present-day (2006 onward).

At the beginning of the book Daniel approaches Lucy (Sophia) at a high school graduation party and attempts to tell her how much she, Sophia, means to him. Lucy is very confused about why he calls her Sophia and runs away; Daniel feels that he's messed up his chance to have Sophia in his life. Throughout high school Lucy felt drawn to Daniel but barely exchanged any words with him until the party. Even though Daniel disappears and Lucy has no contact with him during college she cannot get Daniel out of her mind and eventually starts to piece together her own memories.

Daniel is a very interesting character. Because of his ability to remember, he has knowledge of countless languages, authors, and subjects. Brashares also characterizes Daniel as quite a lonely character. In descriptions of his past lives he is often alienated from his family because he knows it is only a matter of time before he will come back again to start all over somewhere else. Plus, he is in the minority of people who remember.

My Name is Memory is the kind of book I never wanted to end, and because of that once I finished I still wanted to know what would become of the characters. But going beyond thinking about the characters in the book, Brashares makes you think about ideas like a soul being reborn in different bodies and lifetimes. At one point Daniel talks about a dog in Venice who remembered Daniel when he returned several years later in a different life. I thought that was a very nice detail in the book; a small group of people are able to recognize souls and yet dogs are able to see a person's soul. I guess as a dog-lover I thought that particular observant detail was very true to how I see dogs interact with humans.

I definitely recommend this book for fans of Ann Brashares' previous books and also to people who want an absorbing, creative story to captivate them this summer.

My Name is Memory Audiobook CD: Find it in the catalog!