Author: Ann Brashares, 2010.
Genre: Contemporary and Historical Romance. Reincarnation. Metaphysics
Other Details: Paperback. 402 pages.
You have been with me from the very first life. You are my first memory every time, the single thread in all of my lives.
The male lead of this reincarnation-themed novel is Daniel, who has the ability to recall his past lives as well as being able to recognise the souls of those he has previously known. He is one of the few blessed (or cursed) with 'The Memory'. Since 541 AD, his first remembered life, he has been in love with the same girl. Life after life he has been drawn to the girl he calls Sophia, though she has no memory of him and each time they meet, they have been torn apart, often tragically.
In this present lifetime Sophia is named Lucy and in 2004 she is a high school junior in Virginia. Daniel keeps his distance not wanting to upset her though as time passes this changes and she finally begins to awaken to their shared past. However, there is danger in the form of Daniel's brother from a previous lifetime; a brother who not only shares 'The Memory' but has used it for sinister ends and is determined that there will be no lasting happiness for the couple.
Ann Brashares is well known for her YA series The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. This is her second novel marketed for adults, though I think it still would have appeal for older teens. Their story from 2004 onwards alternates between Lucy/Sophia's and Daniel's perspectives with other chapters narrated by Daniel that recounts their various encounters throughout history. Their former lives tend to quite ordinary; Daniel reflects at one point that "the great hits of history go along without the notice of most. I read about them in books like everybody else."
It is not necessary to believe in reincarnation or the concept of soul mates to enjoy this novel. Unlike the M. R. Rose reincarnation novels Brashares doesn't seek to make a case for reincarnation and does not provide an author's note to state her own position on the subject. Reincarnation is something I consider in a very matter-of-fact way so I had no issues with the metaphysical aspects of the novel and was able to suspend belief about the concept of the highly detailed memories of Daniel and a sprinkling of others in the story.
The novel ends on a rather ambiguous note, which suggests that there is more story to tell. I read that Brashares had planned this as a trilogy but her publishers apparently haven't encouraged this. I suspect the reason may be that this is quite a philosophical novel, which is not in keeping with the majority of novels with these kind of themes. I admired it for that depth and overall enjoyed reading it. I am sure that if Brashares feels strongly enough that this story needs to be told she may be willing to explore alternative methods as other authors have done when projects that they feel passionate about have been blocked.
Note: I am rather surpised to have reached 50 books by the middle of March. My hope this year is to complete 200.