Literature is filled with lovers that not even death can divide.
My Name is MemoryLots of great story moments don't always add up to a great storyPart one of this review will be for those who have not read the book and are interested in knowing what it is about and how good a read it is but who do not want any key plot elements revealed. Part two will be my opinion on the whole book, including key elements that will spoil the ending. Part two invites the opinions of other people who have already read the book.
My Name is Memory is an intriguing, mostly well-written fantasy about a deep love that spans over a thousand years.
The reader is meant to assume that most of us have lead past lives, but that almost none of us remember this. What happens, then, when two people who have found the truest form of love are reincarnated, and only ONE of them remembers that love? The central plot involves the Rememberer's quest to convince a complete stranger that he is her true love.
As if that isn't interesting enough, along the way the author also treats us to well-thought-out philosophical theorizing as to how and why past behaviors would determine placement in future lives, as well as the psychological issues that would definitely be faced by people who remember their past lives and by people who are trying to remember. Between the love story, the adventure, and the psychological probing, there is not a single boring moment in this book.
That said, there is still the truth that an interesting book without a satisfying conclusion is often considered by the reader to be a waste of time. I'm sure that if the cover of the book had indicated that this was the first installment of a trilogy, I would have turned the pages with less expectation and not been disappointed at the less-than-conclusive conclusion. On the other hand, enough IS concluded at the end of the book that the reader could stop there, never read the sequels, and still feel mostly satisfied. (What is left to be done at the end of the book is really just details. The reader knows how the trilogy will end.) The truly disappointing part, to this reader, was the climax of the book. We are lead to expect a momentous revelation which simply does not come. In addition, a main premise of the book which it seemed we were meant to embrace wholeheartedly is all of a sudden supposed to be dismissed by the main character and by the reader at the end.
If you like interesting, thoughtful writing that works both as fantasy and philosophy but may not provide a satisfying ending to all readers, you might want to try this book.
The book featured SUCH good writing that I felt really, really let down by key points that happened at or near the end.
The whole romantic premise of the book, as I felt it was presented to the reader, is that people remain basically the same inside over time. This is why, since we know how Daniel and Sophia connected so long ago, we are so rooting for them to find each other again. While other Rememberers allow their names to be changed with each new life, Daniel insists that he keep his old name to help Sophia find him and to prove that he is still the same person with the same passion. All of a sudden, at the end of the book, "Ben" (depicted as almost God-like in his wisdom) comes in to try to convince Daniel (and the reader) that it is better to change each time and to accept each change. The "climax" of the book is when Daniel accepts Sophia as the reincarnated Lucy, and we are supposed to be happy (and believe that Daniel is happy)that Lucy is no longer Sophia. Even worse, Daniel comes upon this "great" realization not through finding out what a wonderful person Lucy is, but through amazing sex with her. To me this was an incredible cop-out on the part of the author.
The other thing I didn't like - although it did not affect the plot so was not as disturbing - was the author's use of curse words. I understand that many people accept this type of talk today, but the characters would have been fully believable without those words, which only served to jolt me out of the fantasy. Since some people accept such language and others don't, I don't understand why authors don't just opt to leave it out. People who commonly use and hear such words will not notice that the words are not there, but people who do not commonly use and hear them will definitely notice and be uncomfortable.
And now the good points of the book:
As mentioned in my first review (above), for most of the book it is a top-rate love story, and the theory of reincarnation is presented in such a way that non-believers can easily suspend their disbelief to get lost in Daniel and Sophia's world. We follow Lucy's quest to discover the truth and Daniel's quest to finally live with her happily ever after and are there with both of them for every step in their journeys.
Most happily, the book does not simply end with the lovers spiritually reunited. The author remembers Daniel's pain in killing Lucy's first incarnation, and makes both Daniel and the entire book more likeable by having his quest be not just for her love but to atone for his awful deed. We wonder what he could possibly do that would be good enough, but by the end of the book we know he has truly atoned.
My first reaction upon reaching the end of the book was disappointment that the lovers were physically separated again. Upon further thought, I realized that the reader is fully convinced that Sophia's future incarnations can always be reconvinced if necessary, but that even if no future incarnations ever happen, the two have finally totally belonged to each other, and the length of time together is not what matters the most. At any rate, when we realize that Daniel must temporarily leave her again to take care of the evil Joachim, we "know" this will just be a long, complicated "side trip" and that the two will eventually reunite forever. So, although for a few minutes I was angry that the book had ended that way and wished for the sequels to already be written, this feeling was quickly replaced with the attitude of "I really don't care what Daniel has to go through to get rid of Joachim. I'm not even going to bother to read the sequels. I'm just going to feel happy 'knowing' the two lovers found each other and will eventually be together again."
My overall feeling is that, while the book captivated me on almost every page, the unsatisfying climax and ending made it feel ultimately like the author "tricked" me and the hours spent reading it were a waste of time.
My Name is MemoryRomance with a twistI’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. And from looking at other reviews, I think I know why. They seem to be all over the map. This just seems to be one of those books that is hard to get a handle on. So, to begin with I will say that this one does have a very similar feel to that of The Time Traveller’s Wife. The only difference is he is the constant, and she is the one that is eternally changing. But this one has more of a mystical feel since the characters are dealing with multiple lifetimes, and not time travel. It also has similarities to the movie Groundhog Day, in that when the reader got deeper and deeper into the book, you found yourself wondering how many more lives were you going to have to orient yourself to before there is any form of resolution. And if it is a resolution you are waiting for, you might be waiting for a while.
My primary response to this book was good, as I found the characters easy to settle into. The story line was a little more difficult, however. It is set up to shift through alternating chapters, between present day, and past lives. This constant shifting is what leads the reader into what I came to refer to as the Groundhog Day Syndrome. But Ms. Brashares does create intense and moving historical fiction passages that I found enjoyable in the extreme. It just left me frustrated when I would get grounded in one of Daniel’s historic past lives, and then be dropped back into the present day.
What I was impressed with is how Ms. Brashares managed to present a story without offending any sensibilities over the spectrum of varying belief systems. There was never anything really jarring when it came to being concerned about the debate between reincarnation, and religious doctrines. The story simply presented a love story that spanned many life times, without actually coming out an challenging any of the ideological backgrounds that may be behind the story.
The love story itself is fairly well done, but I found that I was getting frustrated with the constant near misses, before these two finally got together. And I know, this is usually the general pattern in romance stories. But in this one it frustrated me more than the average. I think that is because the book kept changing from the here and now, to the past. And in all of that time they would come together and there was always the challenge of she could never remember. I mean, in the average romance novel there is always some impediment that would keep the couple apart, societal demands of propriety, the social standing of one or both of the parties, someone else that one or both of them are already involved with — there is always some form of impediment. But in this case it was not a matter of anything keeping them apart — but rather she can’t remember. Until of course the story makes a left turn and she suddenly finds a way to leave a message for one of her future lives. At that point I really started to get frustrated because that is when the book started to descend into the unbelievable.
But it was the end that really left me wondering what was up. And I don’t want to give it away — but I did come away wondering if there was going to be a sequel to the book, or if I was missing something. If this is where the story ends — all I can say is I really hated the ending. It just had an incomplete feel to it, and I found myself wondering why did I invest the time to read this book — only to get to the end for this? It just felt like something was missing in the end, either that or the story isn’t complete.