I'm not quite sure what I expected from Anne Brashares' My Name is Memory. The story's premise is somewhat akin to The Time-Traveller's Wife which moved me, and knowing that this was geared towards more adult readers, I approached it with a determination to like it. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.
Daniel and Sophia are old souls that keep on coming back after every death. Daniel's memory is special: he remembers every lifetime he has ever lived and recognizes those he has come across. It is both a blessing and a curse. In his very first life in Africa, he had watched a woman die as he burned her house down. Unable to forget her, he continues to be drawn to her soul in every lifetime thereafter. Unfortunately for Daniel, Sophia's memory is wiped clean every time. Now, in modern-day America, she is known as Lucy, and in this rare moment that they are within each other's reach, Daniel is determined to make her remember.
I appreciated how the story is very introspective and Daniel, the main character, tends to wax philosophical, giving it a different approach to the many paranormal romances on the shelves these days. But this also means that it took quite long to unfold, and this was one of my first sources of confusion: I wasn't sure if the lovers were going to meet any time to soon to face their conflicts together or if it was going the Sleepless in Seattle route. That isn't to say that Daniel and Sophia didn't meet at all in between their first lives and now; in fact, they meet countless times. They would be strangers, sometimes related by marriage. Sometimes, one of them would be a child. There are moments in their strange lives that paint touching images but I strongly believe that it is only when Daniel meets Constance during the First World War that their love is truly justified. Everything else is mere commentary. The only other time I felt such strong emotion in this text was when Daniel visits one of his graves and finally recognizes how much he had loved his mother then.
One of the conflicts that the lovers face is Daniel's brother Joaquim, another old soul who is driven by vengeance. There was so much foreshadowing about Joaquim's abilities and his mysterious friend that I expected some revelation, some measure of triumph over him, but I was left with no closure. I didn't think the climax was as strong as it could have been and the denouement was even weaker. I would be very happy to know that there will be a sequel because then readers who have already invested their time into this text shouldn't feel as abandoned as I was towards the end. I feel that the choices Daniel makes at the end are contrary to what the book has been exhorting all along: to let go of the past, to realize that there is no shame in regret, and to learn to live for the present. I think that there is a still a healthy part of the teen audience that will gravitate towards a romance like this, but I hope that Ms Brashares will deliver a love story with more robust characters and a more thought-out plot in the future.