Questions and Topics for Discussion
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together—and he remembers it all. Daniel has “the memory,” the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he’s previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.
Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel’s unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now “Lucy” in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.ABOUT ANN BRASHARES
Ann Brashares is the New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants, and Forever in Blue, and the adult novel The Last Summer (of You and Me). She lives in New York.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSMy Name is Memory unfolds in chapters alternating between Daniel and Lucy’s voices. What did you think of this technique? Do you think the author captured both voices equally well? Was there one character whose point of view you preferred reading?As we watch Lucy mature from a teenager to a young woman over the course of the novel, we also watch Daniel mature over centuries, carrying knowledge and wisdom from lifetime to lifetime. When they meet, he has centuries worth of experiences and she is still learning how to be an adult for the first time. Do you think Lucy and Daniel can find common ground in their shared lifetime, or do their differing experiences separate them too much?My Name is Memory is set in present day, with flashbacks to previous eras—including North Africa in 541 B.C., Crete in 899 B.C., England in 1918 A.D., St. Louis in 1932 A.D., and Georgia in 1968 A.D. Was there one particular setting you enjoyed most? Why?How do Lucy’s experiences with her older sister Dana’s mental illness affect her reaction to Daniel when he tells her about their past lives together? How much of her response do you think comes from fear? Do you think she wants to believe him?One of the themes of My Name is Memory is our perspective on the value of the here-and-now and the passage of time. As someone who has lived and remembers many lifetimes, Daniel sees life as fleeting and replaceable, and it affects how he treats himself and his family members. How does this change for him over the course of the book? What causes the change? Did the book make you think about the value of the present, or the value of the long view differently?Daniel insists on being called “Daniel” in each life, and he calls Lucy “Sophia,” the name she had when he first fell in love with her. Why is he so attached to using these names? What is their significance to him? What changes at the end that allows him to finally call her “Lucy”?Daniel talks about human beings’ ability to recognize other people’s souls, and says, “Our souls reveal themselves in our face and body… Choose a person’s face and study it carefully… Ask yourself what you know about the person, and if you open yourself to the information, you will find you know an overwhelming amount” (p. 55). Do you think this is true? Have you ever recognized something like this in a stranger?Throughout the novel, Daniel faces hardships that he believes are a direct result of his past choices. After rejecting his mother Molly’s love by committing suicide, he is reborn to an abusive mother. After Daniel angered him hundreds of years ago, his brother Joaquim chases him through lifetimes, keeping Daniel and Sophia/Lucy apart. Do you believe in this idea, which some call karma, that our actions will come back to us?When Lucy looks back on her first meeting with Daniel she is filled with regret. “It must have been painful for him to realize [Sophia] was gone, replaced by a coward” (p. 196). Do you agree with Lucy’s assessment of herself that she’s a coward, or would you consider her brave? Does her level of bravery change over the course of the book? How or why?Brashares writes, as Daniel thinks he’s about to lose Lucy, “If you didn’t have a choice, you had to make a choice. If you didn’t have options, you made some. You couldn’t just let the world happen to you” (p. 505). Is this something he has always believed? Is it advice he has followed? To what consequences? How has it shaped his collection of lives?At the beginning of the novel, Daniel says that despite all his lives, “I’ve never had a child, and I’ve never gotten old. I don’t know why” (p. 2). Why do you think these two rites of passage, so integrally a part of the human condition, have been denied him? Do you think he will get to experience both of these things in his “ultimate” life? Is the life with Lucy the one he’s been waiting for?