I have a fairly small yet decent collection of books in my personal library so far, and I had the pleasure of reading each one more times than I could possibly count. Though I may love books, I have to confess that I can be quite picky in terms of the types of things I want to read. Everyone has their own personal preferences, and my taste in books may not please some people. Some of you may have read the titles I have in my collection, some of you may have not. Regardless, I still want to share some of the things I have encountered and I hope that you will get to experience a literary journey with the list of books and novels I am going to share with you on my blog. Which is why I am going to regularly post reviews of the books I currently own, and give you my take on their respective merits and faults.
First up is a review of a novel that could potentially be adapted into a film due to its romantic plot—with a twist.
Penélope Cruz once said in Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky” that ‘every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around’. This statement is a highly apropos premise fundamental to the extraordinary novel, “My Name Is Memory” by Ann Brashares—she of the popular “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” teen fiction series.
At the surface, the novel comes across as a typical, semi-tragic chronicle of romance between two star-crossed lovers. Yet underneath this brittle genre lies a gorgeous tapestry of characters, scenes, and events. Combining the emotional poignancy of Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet In Heaven”; the temporal insolence of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; a strong dose of life philosophies and magical realism echoing the works of Paulo Coelho, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and José Saramago; a parallel dash of J.K. Rowling’s heavy themes of death and love underscoring her epic, seven-part magnum opus, and (as much as this writer pains to admit it) the sweeping, hyper-romanticism of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” saga—Brashares effectively weaves together all these elements to construct something entirely new and familiar at the same time. “My Name Is Memory” is an insightful rumination on East Asian mysticism paired with a timeless, intense ardor between a man and a woman. It is also a deeply refreshing addition into the worlds of fiction, fantasy, and a host of other categories this book can squeeze into.
The novel tells the story of Daniel—one of the few unique souls on Earth with the gift of an enduring Memory and constant reincarnations. Though his life spans the centuries, countless physical renditions of himself, and ever-changing continents, one thing remains the same: his unwavering love for Sophia, his destined soul mate upon meeting her for the first time in North Africa, circa 541 A.D. But as with all great lovers of literature before them (think “Romeo and Juliet” with a Kafkaesque quality), their passion is not without the requisite obstacles. However, when Lucy (Sophia’s present-day manifestation) meets Daniel in a quiet Virginian town and slowly begins to piece together the mystery surrounding their powerful connection, the book shimmers with the luminosity of far-flung galaxies.
Yet “My Name Is Memory” is not without its share of faults. Having moved on from the “Traveling Pants” series of books, Brashares’s writing—though rich in historical and geographical detail—still suffers from the slight stigma of young adult fiction when this work should be more than that. Her characterizations are adequate but somehow lacks the emotional gravitas one might expect from two protagonist lovers like Lucy and Daniel. The measured pacing and constant shifting of the narrative between first-person and third omniscient, past and present timelines, might not be everyone’s cup of tea (fast-paced thriller fanatics be warned!), though it is necessary to understand the maddening complexities of Daniel’s entrenched persona, and of Lucy’s uncertain determination to make herself remember who she really is and what Daniel means to her.
Despite these gaffes, “My Name Is Memory” makes for a truly satisfying reading experience not to be missed, as the book’s cliffhanger of an ending provides a deliciously flirtatious promise of what’s in store on the next installment for Brashares’s two everlasting soul mates. But as tempting as it is to wield a Time-Turner a la Hermione Granger and see what happens next, the beauty of this novel lies in subtly allowing the reader such as myself to savor the building anticipation; to keep the faith in knowing that a happy ending will always wait at the edge of forever and beyond. So Edward and Bella—better watch your sparkly backs. A new breed of immortality is in town, and it’s name is “Memory”.
Here’s a sample excerpt of “My Name Is Memory” below:
I have lived more than a thousand years. I have died countless times. I forget precisely how many times. My memory is an extraordinary thing, but it is not perfect. I am human.
The early lives blur a bit. The arc of your soul follows the pattern of each of your lives. It is macrocosmic. There was my childhood. There have been many childhoods. And even in the early part of my soul, I reached adulthood many times. These days, in every one of my infancies, the memory comes faster. We go through the motions. We look oddly at the world around us. We remember.
I say “we”, and I mean myself, my soul, my selves, my many lives. I say “we”, and I also mean the other ones like me who have the Memory, the conscious record of experience on this earth that survives every death. There aren’t many, I know. Maybe one in a century, one born out of millions. We find one another rarely, but believe me, there are others. At least one of them has a memory far more extraordinary than mine.
I have been born and died many times in many places. The space between them is the same. I wasn’t in Bethlehem for Christ’s birth. I never saw the glory that was Rome. I never bowed to Charlemagne. At that time, I was searching out a crop in Anatolia, speaking a dialect unintelligible to the villages north and south. Only God and the Devil can be counted on for all the thrilling parts. The great hits of history go along without the notice of most. I read about them in books like everyone else.
Sometimes I feel more akin to houses and trees than to my fellow human beings. I stand around watching the waves of people come and go. Their lives are short, but mine is long. Sometimes I imagine myself as a post driven to the ocean’s edge.
I’ve never had a child, and I’ve never gotten old. I don’t know why. I have seen beauty in countless things. I have fallen in love, and she is the one who endures. I killed her once and died for her many times, and I still have nothing to show for it. I always search for her; I always remember her.
I carry the hope someday that she will remember me.