On Monday night, I started reading Ann Brashares' My Name Is Memory. By Tuesday night, I was done.
The story started with a meeting between a teenage Lucy and her crush-to-end-all-crushes Daniel. They finally spoke at the senior dance, and they kissed, but then he said some strange things to her. He called her Sophia, and told her that he knew her for a long time, before she was Lucy. She freaked out (naturally) and pushed him away before running away.
The thing was, Daniel had the gift of memory. The story is of reincarnations, and Daniel remembered all of his past lives. The most significant events in these lives gone by was the sporadic presence of Sophia, or some form of her. His love-across-the-ages even if she did not know it.
The rest of the book pieced together the various lives and experiences that Daniel went through - where he was born, what he did, what he learned on that journey - his encounters with Sophia - as a woman, a girl, an in-law, a nurse - his friend Ben and his brother, Joaquin. He was always aware of Sophia/ Lucy - where she lived and he could easily visit her, but he was held back by the fear of scaring her again. He just needed to know that she was alive and well, even if she was not with him. It is this holding-back that made the story frustrating in parts, even if his motives could be understood. I wanted a HEA, or something akin to it - perhaps peace for Daniel's soul.
"I can tell you the feeling of dying into a community of souls. It's when you understand you are no longer alive but you feel other beings around you, and it is profoundly comforting. People you might have known to some degree or other, who know and care about you, are with you. You don't talk to them or communicate in any explicit way, but you know you are not alone and that they will sometimes keep you. You aren't capable of asking questions in this state, but there is a condition of knowing.
I also know the feeling of dying into emptiness. We all die alone, but this is different. You apprehend nothing and nothingness. You have the sense of wandering, and it can go on for a very long time. You find yourself yearning, almost hungering, for the presence of another being."
The thing about Daniel is that since he had the memory, he tried to stay true to his first self, the one who was actually named Daniel, despite whatever life he led. His friend, Ben, re-incarnated and with the memory as well, told him that he had to appreciate what he had and live that life as it was, without dwelling on everything gone by.
The story did not end. Well it did, but there were some questions - did Daniel finally die or was he already to be re-born? Wtf was Joaquin? It was the type of ending that lends itself to a myriad of fanfiction.
I found out that the book is the first in a trilogy, so I hope that the other two are as well written as this installment.