Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What We're Reading: Ann Brashares

Yes, that name is familiar, particularly if you are a reader of Young Adult Fiction. Brashares is the author of the spectacularly successful The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and its several sequels, as well as a first adult novel, The Last Summer (of You and Me). Her new book, My Name is Memory, is a novel written for adults, but having read it, I think it will have great appeal (maybe more appeal) for older teens and 20-somethings.

The story is about two lovers thwarted by time and timing: Daniel, who has lived many lives and has the nearly unique ability to remember them all from life to life; and Lucy, who started out as Daniel's brother's wife, Sophia, in sixth century Africa, but in 2009 is just a simple home-town southern girl, inexplicably infatuated with the new boy at school (yes, Daniel). Problem is, she doesn't have his extraordinary memory, and when he finally talks to her, he frightens her with his intensity and wild tales of previous lives, so she runs away from him. This situation has repeated down through the centuries, as each of them has been reborn; sometimes one is too old or too young for the other, or married or terminally ill, other times they live out their lives in close proximity but unaware of one another; but always, Daniel remembers, while Sophia/Constance/Lucy forgets. Finally, in this lifetime, there is the chance they can be together; but just when Lucy begins to be receptive to the idea that she's known Daniel before, and he gets up the nerve to approach her again, an unexpected intervention may spell disaster.

The book is a bit of a slow read, with much digression to explain Daniel's and Lucy's past lives; only in the last few chapters does the present-day action really begin to pick up--and then it's over. This is the first book of a planned trilogy, though, so a certain amount of scene-setting is in order. When things finally do get exciting, you realize that all the back story has caused you unconsciously to invest in the fates of these two young lovers, and you are rooting for their reunion until the end. I look forward to the next book.

(Burbank Public Library also offers the audio book.)

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