"My Name Is Memory"

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares

Daniel Grey has lived many times and he remembers all of it. Lucy Broward has shared many of those lives but remembers very little, experiencing just the occasional vague feeling of deja-vu. Daniel searches for Lucy in every incarnation - every time period, every location - but circumstances often don't work out for them. They might be far different in age or they might be in family relationships that don't allow for romance. And...they have an enemy: Daniel's one-time brother follows them, carrying a grudge, intent on their destruction.

I've never been a fan of paranormal romance and this book didn't change that. I didn't enjoy the plot or the writing. There were inconsistencies in the reincarnation theory, like telling us you couldn't know if you were coming back in another life, then contradicting it with "it's desire more than anything else that keeps us coming back for more." In another contradiction we're told that suffering doesn't end with death, then we're told about people (souls) who choose to leave their bodies before they have to because they're in pain "and it feels better to get out."  In a blatant inconsistency we are told that "a great ear for music" is a biological thing, of the body not the soul, yet in Daniel's present incarnation he can still play all the instruments he has ever learned to play in his past lives.

There were also some rather extraordinary co-incidences, such as Daniel always coming back as a boy and Lucy as a girl, while this does not hold true for other characters. In another, Daniel tells us at one point that his parents had his IQ tested and he implies it is high: "You've got to have a large and unusual mental capacity to remember a thousand years of largely insignificant history." Isn't it a bit too much luck that in every life he is born into a body that has a brain with that capacity? There are too many of these differences for it to be credible, even if I did believe in the possibility of re-incarnation.

From what I've read online it seems this was intended to be the first part of a trilogy, but the sequels have never been written. If it's true this is just part of the story, then the ending is understandable; if it's not true, there is simply no excuse. The story builds up to a great battle that doesn't happen and a major plot element is introduced just before the end, then dropped. No part of the story line comes to any conclusion. It's a terrible ending.

Even if a sequel does make it to print, I won't read it because I couldn't get invested in the characters at all. I found them quite flat, without much personality, interested only in themselves. In the long centuries of Daniel's life, all he ever focuses on is his feeling, yearning, aching and longing for Lucy (Sophia, Constance, etc). In a novel written for adults, I would expect fuller characters and a more solid plot. Yes, there's a sex scene and a few rude words, but surely more than that is needed to cross the line from a YA novel to an adult novel. If it wasn't for those things I would have thought this book was intended for teens.

No book is all good or all bad and I did like a few things. There was a description of death that was creative, and I loved this line: "I felt like a pianist who'd been forced to play on a few white keys in the middle, finally allowed to run his hands all up and down the keyboard."

I can't recommend "My Name Is Memory". There were people in my book club who loved it though, so like most things it's probably a matter of taste. I've just never acquired the taste for paranormal romance.


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