Daniel Grey knows all about being a teenager - after all he’s been one at least 1,000 times. The latest novel by Ann Brashares, author of the award-winning Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, traces themes of reincarnation and eternal love.
Lucy Broward is captivated by Daniel, a new student in her high school. She becomes particularly interested after he calls her “Sophie.” Over the next few years, she does some amateur detective work and learns that she and Daniel were lovers in previous lifetimes and that Daniel is cursed with “The Memory,” by which he remembers all of his previous lives even though the people around him do not. During the modern story of Daniel and Sophie, the reader is taken through chapters of Daniel’s first-person narration recalling his earlier lives from North Africa in 541 to modern-day Virginia.
The beginning of the book works well. Daniel and Lucy’s love story is touching, even though the two spend most of the book apart. Daniel in particular is memorable as a young man who is wise beyond his years for obvious reasons. Some of the most humorous scenes occur when he uses his previous experiences to aid his current life, such as breezing through medical school and forging documents thanks to his previous lives as a doctor. Lucy also makes a pretty well-written lead female as she investigates her previous lives through the Internet and reading materials, things that Daniel doesn’t need.
The past scenes of Daniel’s lives are the highlights of the book as Daniel deals with long chains of heartache, abuse, warfare, and losing his love time and again. The chapters that explain the romance between Daniel and Sophie/Lucy are particularly moving, such as in 8th-century Asia Minor when Daniel tries to take Sophie away from her abusive husband - who happens to be Daniel’s brother - only to lose her again. Daniel and Lucy’s romance throughout the centuries becomes a constant cycle of meeting and loving only to lose each other again and again, becoming an almost karmic quest for the two to finally live happily ever after.
The book almost falls apart towards the end with the introduction of a villainous character who also has “The Memory.” After a strong initial appearance, he becomes a disappointment: he doesn’t do much except stalk Lucy and tries to shoot at Daniel and Lucy while the two are running from him in Mexico. This character was obviously introduced as a transparent means to create a sequel but is really unnecessary. Otherwise, Brashares has penned a moving, beautiful story of love surviving even after separation and death.