Inventing Memory is a unique book that weaves together the legends of ancient Sumer with the story of a modern young woman whose days as a school misfit aren't entirely behind her. Initially it feels like the reader is experiencing two distinct books: the first section follows the story of Shula, a slave in Sumer who worships the goddess Inanna, although Shula is also experiencing a lot of strange miracles and is aware that there were goddesses before Inanna who appear to be taking an interest in Shula. Shula's life is hard, even when she follows Inanna's will, and
many of the decisions she makes seem to cause her life to go downhill. We leave Shula's story as she is being punished for breaking her vows as a temple virgin.
The second part of the story switches to the life of Wendy Chrenko as she lives through her schooldays as a misfit, teased by other schoolchildren because of her rather wacky nature. She eventually finds something of a soul mate in Ray Mackie, but as their lives move on and Wendy spends more time researching the role of women in ancient Sumer while Ray gets involved in some dodgy employment, they no longer see eye to eye. Wendy's life is a quest to discover a true matriarchal society in history, but in this search she is also a misfit. Wendy eventually becomes involved in a virtual reality experiment to see if she can discover the truth of her belief that women and men initially lived together as equals.
Both parts of this book are interesting and make you want to keep reading. The third part of Inventing Memory brings the threads together as we discover the ways in which Shula and Wendy are linked, and as both women discover the truth of their searches. Ray also has a role in learning what is important to him and acknowledging the relationship between himself and Wendy.
What's fascinating about Inventing Memory is the opportunity to peek into ancient Sumer (around 2000 BC) and the lives of the people there. There is a great deal of historical detail, and the characters are mostly those found in historical documents (such as the
Epic of Gilgamesh). It is fascinating to read about the difficult lives, particularly of a slave girl, although the gods and miracles and magic that are part of Shula's life make the story
somewhat unbelievable. Shula's life events are also partially mirrored in Wendy's
twenty-first-century life, and the timeless themes of love, disappointment and lack of understanding of the path of life are excellently described. Overall, Inventing Memory is an uplifting book, one that it is difficult to categorize except
to say that it is simply a good read.