To begin with, I enjoy reading romance novels but this genre has never been a top priority in my book list. So it was pretty unusual for me to actually spend time and money ($32.05 from Kinokuniya) to purchase My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares.
It first caught my attention when I read the synopsis of the book on a forwarded email. Essentially it is about Daniel who somehow possess the ability to remember his past lives and his love for Sophia is the common thread that strings his many lives together over 1,500 years. Three things triggered my interest – the setting of the story across history, the controversial discussion of reincarnation and of course the romance.
Having completed the book, I have to admit that it wasn’t as fantastic as I had hoped for it to be but it did leave a lot of room for thought and analysis about life. This isn’t really a true blue romance novel. Although the journey of the protaganist is driven by his undivided love for Sophia who cannot remember him when they cross paths in new lives, the author seemed more content to dwell on the premise of past lives and the fantasy world the story is built on.
Ann argues that dreams of places or people we have never been to or met is the possible link between our present selves and past lives. In addition, our souls also carry with it experiences and fears from our past lives which explains birthmarks, scars or irrational aversions or affinity for people or things.
Daniel was so absorbed in his quest to be finally requited with Sophia, that he ended up missing the gift of life, aptly pointed out by his good friend Ben who shares the same ability to remember. At one point, he took his own life just to be able to catch her in the next life at the same age. Interestingly, Daniel could not bring himself to let Sophia/Lucy die as he doubted the existence of reincarnation at the brink of life and death.
As a Christian, I find it hard to stomach that God recycles souls which means the possibility for a person to find God or not find God in his/her many lives. How then can one get to heaven, if ever? It also severely limits a person’s perspective to live life to the fullest and in pursuit of things that matter for eternity. So although the author’s argument for the existence of past lives is pretty convincing, my faith in God stands.
To give credit, I enjoyed the many historical facets of the novel told from a first person view – North Africa in 500 AD, present day Turkey in 700 AD, England in early 1900 and America during the Civil War. I wonder why people, me inclusive, get so hung up about literary notions of romance as if we cannot be satisfied by real life relationships such that we succumb to books and movies to fill the gap.