Book Review: Ann Brashares’s MY NAME IS MEMORY

As I began this review of Ann Brashares’s My Name is Memory (Riverhead, out today), I wondered if I’m way too old to be its target audience. The novel contains the kind of melodramatic language one might find in a young girl’s diary, including mine from another lifetime. Perhaps this isn’t surprising since Brashares is best known for her Young Adult Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. But since this title is deemed “adult,” I guess it’s fair game for my assessment.

Our hero Daniel has lived many lives, starting around 520 A.D. He has “the memory,” the rare ability to recall events from all his past lives. In most of them, he has loved a girl named Sophia, though she’s had different names through the ages (at a certain point, Daniel decided he would only go by that name no matter what moniker he’s given at each new birth). His main goal in each life is to find Sophia and convince her of their eternal love since her memory is not so good. His attempts have been repeatedly thwarted throughout the centuries, often by a malevolent character named Joaquim, who was once his brother. In that lifetime, Sophia was Joaquim’s wife but ran off with Daniel to escape the brother’s abuse (Daniel and Sophia never consummated their relationship) and Joaquim has wanted revenge ever since. The story jumps through different time periods, with the hope that Daniel and Sophia, named Lucy in present day, will finally get to be together.

The concept is intriguing—I’m a fan of time-travel stories—but the execution is problematic for several reasons. The first is a contradiction of the following declaration:

There are so many things I’ve seen that I could tell you about. But I am telling you a story, a love story, and I will try, with limited digressions, to hold on to my thread.

But digress Brashares does, impeding the urgency and momentum I felt is needed in Daniel’s search. For example, he goes looking for Lucy at the University of Virginia, where she’s a student (the college is never named but it’s definitely UVA from the descriptions), and promptly gets off-track by reminiscing about the time he met Thomas Jefferson in the ’60s when TJ was reincarnated as a black man.

Another problem was my difficulty in discerning the difference between Daniel’s and Lucy’s voices. Chapters alternate between their points of view but the writing style remains mostly the same. I suppose one could argue this means Daniel is in touch with his sensitive side but his voice isn’t convincingly masculine.

The biggest obstacle for me, though, was the overwrought prose about the couple’s love for each other. If you’ve ever been in love or longed for someone, you know exactly how that feels. It doesn’t need to be explained in all the quickening-heartbeat-when-the-other-is-near-and-staring-out-the-window-morosely-when-he/she’s-not details. I want the language to make me swoon, not do all the swooning for me.

To be fair, I think this book would do well among Brashares’s YA fanbase despite its adult categorization. I’ve seen the first Twilight movie (haven’t read any of the books) and Bella and Edward talk the way Daniel and Sophia/Lucy do. While that style is not for me, I can see its attraction for younger readers because once upon a time, when my heart was more innocent, I might’ve fallen for it, too.

Nerd verdict: Spotty Memory

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Reader#9
    June 1, 2010 at 11:07 am

    The story sounds very promising and a bit reminiscent of The Time Traveler’s Wife so I am actually interested in giving it a chapter or two. I’m with you on dialogue issues. But, to be fair, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the sequels made me blanch repeatedly due to its clunky translation. I hung in there and was rewarded with a strong story.

    Is it anything like this? Or is all swooning all the time?

  • Reply
    Novelwhore
    June 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I am so sorry you didn’t love MY NAME IS MEMORY! It makes me doubly sad since you have yet to steer me wrong with your recommendations and this book is my absolute favorite right now! I could never get in to Time Traveler’s Wife and thought this book much more believable (and I also found the whole showing up naked in front of a 6 y/o rather disturbing) and fun. Yes, it’s not really life changing, but I really found myself captivated by the story and Daniel and Sophia’s adventures through time. Maybe my heart is more innocent than I think, hmmmm. I’m sorry we’re not book soulmates on this title, PCN.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    June 2, 2010 at 12:58 am

    It does sound like an intriguing story, PCN. I’m not sure how much the foibles of the writing would bug me ~ perhaps contained in one book rather than a series, I might manage it. Thanks for a helpful review, as always!

  • Reply
    Teresa
    June 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Is there a part two or am I missing something….I totally did not get the ending…made me feel like I wasted my time reading the book…kind of disappointed!

    • Reply
      Teresa
      June 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      just read on another site, this is book one of three…okay, so now I feel better.

      • Reply
        Pop Culture Nerd
        June 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

        I’m glad! How do you feel about the book overall, knowing now it’s the first in a trilogy?

        • Reply
          Teresa
          June 8, 2010 at 3:03 am

          now I can’t wait to read the next two…I couldn’t put it down. I have never been much of a reader. It took me less than 4 days to read that book! At first I wasn’t sure about the whole going back and forth from the present to the past but once I got through the first couple of chapters I enjoyed finding out more about where Daniel came from.

    • Reply
      JoyT
      October 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm

      exactly! I agree!

  • Reply
    Susan G
    June 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I loved the book and could not put it down- I would definetely recommend it- its a great read. Glad its a trilogy because when I got to the last two pages I didn’t understand why it ended the way it did. It makes sense if you understand there is more to come!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      June 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm

      Welcome, Susan. Yes, the ending is quite abrupt. I’ve read other trilogies (the Stieg Larsson one comes to mind) where each installment managed to have a satisfying ending while still leaving some threads to be carried over into the following books.

  • Reply
    LindsayAK
    August 11, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I just finished My Name Is Memory minutes ago, and like many others was vastly disappointed in the cliffhanger. I was elated at hearing it was part one of a trilogy, and I will definitely be pre-ordering the sequel.
    However…many times in this book, I found myself skimming over pages from boredom. I’m only 18 but an avid reader, and normally I don’t skip passages, but when Daniel and Lucy were around each other…I just found some fragments of the composition quite juvenile.
    So Pop Culture Nerd, I am with you on questioning the label of “adult” for My Name Is Memory. It was undoubtedly a success as a novel, but Ann could have taken it to a higher more satisfying level.

    P.s. What are your thoughts on My Name Is Memory becoming a film? I think it has the possibility to be wonderful, as long as it doesn’t get exploited to the extent of Twilight. I just hope they get no-name actors, and focus on staying true to the beautiful story.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      August 11, 2010 at 2:05 am

      Hi LindsayAK,

      Welcome and thanks for your comment.

      Your question is a tough one. I didn’t like the book so don’t really care if a movie gets made since I probably won’t see it. That said, I’ve liked movies in the past based on books I loathed. So if the movie gets made with some brilliant actors and receives rave reviews, I might check it out. I agree about unknown actors being preferable. Can you imagine Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus starring in it? Ugh.

  • Reply
    Carrie
    May 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Does anyone know when the second book is scheduled to come out!!? I loved this book and i am so excited to continue the series!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Carrie, I asked Brashares’s publisher and was told there’s no pub date yet.

      • Reply
        Anne
        January 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        It’s been a while since this post, have you heard anything about release dates for the second book in the trilogy yet?

  • Reply
    Ivy Martinez
    July 19, 2011 at 5:36 am

    I love ‘My Name is Memory’.

    I’m really not a fan of love stories but this one is different. Aside from it being a love story, it also features some mysteries of human life and that’s another story. Though yes, there is difficulty in distinguishing between the voices but the plot is very intriguing and great.

    Just stating my thoughts. 🙂

  • Reply
    kjeannie
    August 1, 2011 at 10:55 am

    If anyone has ever read the Fallen Novels by Lauren Kate (which is a VERY good series!!!!) there are two people named daniel & lucy. and it almost has the same kinda theme as this book….to me it seems somebody has copied somebody???????

    • Reply
      Iva
      November 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      that’s what i first thought, especially the third book of lauren kate – passion, only In my name is memory – daniel is the one who remembers the past, but in passion lucinda is the one who returns to past. but there are many similarities. at least to me. even the peonies are mentioned. and sister of one of the reicarnation of lucy called lucinda 🙂 but just can not wait second book. i was really disapointed with end 🙁

  • Reply
    Sabrina
    August 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I agree that it did have the feeling of a YA novel, but that didn’t bother me. Daniel’s side of the story was definitely the adult portion and it was also the side of the story I found most intriguing and well-written. Lucy’s side was more juvenile and had the YA feeling…but then that’s sort of to be expected given that we are witnessing her grow up. At the same time, her story spanned 5 years and in that time I didn’t feel that her character developed and changed enough from her high school self. I would have liked to see either less time or more time spanned. She completed an entire university degree and still felt like a typical teenager at the end of this.

    I do have to say though, that it bugged me that people were calling this a time travelling novel. Yes, it spans many centuries of time, but it’s not like the characters are actually time travelling. It’s reincarnation and past lives that are being explored.

  • Reply
    Haley
    August 29, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I actually felt sad for Daniel and all that time he had to wait for the love of his existence. The book is amazing, from begging to end. Can’t wait for part two. Also, can we please stop comparing everything to Twilight? It’s beyond annoying! My name is memory is nothing like Twilight- at all.

  • Reply
    Xylee
    January 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    You are right. If you have read Samantha Sotto’s Before Ever After; the same theme on past lives and reincarnation are being explored. 🙂

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    January 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    As of last summer, a rep at her publisher said she hadn’t heard anything about the second MEMORY book being finished. This is outdated info but that’s all I know!

  • Reply
    Brittany
    September 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I felt very optimistic when I first picked up this book. The plot was intriguing, the characters seemed interesting, and the feel of the story seemed exciting. However, I must say that I was honestly (and surprisingly) disappointed. I mean, don’t get me wrong there were definitely some good points but some of the language seemed adolescent and I think the story lacked description. I wish that the story line was more coherent and easy to follow. I also would have liked to have seen more dialogue between Lucy and Daniel and less sex scenes. (SPOILER) It was a big letdown at the end. I mean, Joaquim was Daniel’s main nemesis and they didn’t even have a big face to face confrontation or anything. And then at the end Daniel tells Lucy it’s going to take something really big to get rid of his evil brother and he tells her he’s going to do it, but you never find out what that is exactly. I really would have liked to know how Daniel got rid of him.

  • Reply
    Holly
    May 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

    book was unending, whiny, repetitive drek-not the least bit intriguing. such a good subject, and the author completely ruined it. I am SO disappointed

  • Reply
    Lindsay
    June 18, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    What an awful ending! I don’t care if there was supposed to be a sequel or not, it was a terrible, leave you hanging ending – period. And what makes it worse is that there isn’t even a second book in progress- a second (or third) book doesn’t even look like it’s ever going to come out! What a waste of my reading time!

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