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Thewanderingjew

Thewanderingjew

This book is hard to put down!

The Memory Painter: A Novel - Gwendolyn Womack

When the story begins, a famous painter, Bryan Pierce, is having a “dream”. When he awakens, in a trance, he begins to paint. This has been a recurring event in his life causing him great distress, even as it increases his knowledge of many subjects, skills, languages, time periods and countries. He paints from his memory, from his visions of someone else’s life that haunt his own. The people in his dreams literally take residence in his mind, and they become a permanent part of him. Who are these people, and why do they visit his dreams? Bryan learned to paint after one of his dreams of a famous artist’s life. He absorbed those memories and skills as he did with each of the people in his dreams. Was it imagination or reincarnation? Immediately, my interest was piqued.
When Linz Jacobs visits a museum her deceased mother used to love, she sees a man there. When their eyes meet, they are both drawn to each other. After that momentary sighting, they find each other in a park and play chess together. They decide to meet again the following week for a rematch, although she never even learns his name. Then, when she goes to an event at an art gallery belonging to her friends, Derek and Penelope, she comes across a strange sight. There is a painting there of a scene in a recurring dream she has had since childhood. It is a painting of a woman being burned at the stake. She is shocked that anyone else would know about her dream in its exact form. Even more shocking is the fact that the painting is signed Origenes Adamantius. That was the name of the priest in Greece, in the 3rd century, who had appeared in her dream and witnessed the woman’s death. She asks her friends about the artist, and discovers he is not at the event, so she arranges to meet him. She soon discovers that he is the man from the museum and the same man with whom she had played chess. It was Bryan Pierce. Was it
serendipity or destiny? Was it accidental or planned?
As they talk, Bryan tries to explain some of what his life had been like so that she can understand how he came to paint the painting that so surprised her. Plagued by dreams, ferried from doctor to doctor, trying to discover the cause, his life had been chaotic. He knew there had to be a purpose, but he didn’t know what it was and felt certain the dreams would reveal it, eventually, as he remembered more and more of his past lives. Gwen is skeptical, but oddly drawn to him; she has the, feeling that she knows him.
Bryan is channeling the life of Michael Backer. When Michael married Diana, Bryan’s dad, Doc, was the best man. Bryan’s mother, Barbara, had once been Michael’s girlfriend. They had all gone to school together. Michael and Diana were two of a team of four brilliant researchers who were doing research on the brain and memory, and they were making great progress. Finn and Conrad, Linz’s father, were the other two involved. When their research seemed to be getting out of hand, some of them wanted to disband and not allow their formulas to be developed as a drug without further investigation. They had used themselves as subjects, something highly frowned upon in the scientific community, and they would be discredited if it was discovered. It was possible that they had discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s which would open the door to many more far reaching discoveries about memory, but they wanted to proceed more slowly. A tragic accident changes the course of events. The circumstances surrounding the accident were misinterpreted over the ages, as the spirits of those involved sought to return to resolve an age old conflict. Ancient grudges continued to be harbored, century after century, repeating in life after life as the warring spirits found each other without knowing it, repeating their mistakes. It is a complicated plot with many intersecting themes and characters. It is not always easy to follow without reaching back into the story for clarification of some details. However, with patience, all of the details are there for discovery.
As Michael’s dreams revealed more and more to him of the lives of others, from previous times in history, he became more and more certain that Linz was connected to him, and that with her, he could solve the puzzle connecting his dreams to hers, but she is unable to remember what he does. She has only ever had the one dream and doesn’t recognize him as part of her past or future, nor does she believe she had former lives. She doesn’t even realize that because of her own dream, she has absorbed knowledge, and she can actually speak and read Greek. When Bryan shows her she can, she is deeply confused and does not want to be involved with him. Yet, she is always drawn back, no matter how many times she attempts to leave him.
It seems that in earlier times, there was a community of superhuman beings inhabiting the earth. A guardian monitored the orderly maintenance of the machinery that controlled knowledge, technology and the people. This guardian was protected and hidden from the outside world. She led The Brotherhood, a group that served to protect the citizens. What transpired that caused the end of her reign and The Brotherhood, brought chaos to the world. The lights literally went out and the world was in darkness. Through successive generations, their spirits tried to reunite as they lived again and again in the minds and bodies of others, regardless of the gender of the host. It had been written into the future that the continuum would go on and on, until the day their former memories would reunite. The ancient souls of Hermese and Thoth, the last Guardian and her beloved, would finally find each other, and when that happened, The Brotherhood which had survived over the centuries waiting for this day, would also find each other. As their group was recreated, they would begin to put the world back on a stable, structured path, so that the Great Pyramid could once again become the seat of knowledge and order.
Although it is in the realm of science fiction, perhaps moving into the supernatural, a genre I don't often read, it was so creative, so entertaining and captivating, that I could not easily put it down when forced to by outside influences. It simply kept me guessing until the end and kept me hoping that there would really be a cure for memory loss at some near future time, although perhaps not one that was so intense; too many past lives would be difficult to adjust to…but a cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s would be ideal.
I had only one concern as I read, there was no "family tree" listing how each character morphed from one to another, generation after generation, simply as a guide to keep the storyline straight. However, the author did a wonderful job of moving the characters from time frame to time frame, and even gender to gender, very smoothly, connecting all of the dots together in such a way that a future book in a series is now not only possible, but inevitable. Even so, the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion and doesn’t leave you disappointed as some books in an intended series often do.

*** I received an advance copy of the book in a Goodreads giveaway.