At first glance, The Memory Painter (May 2015) by Gwendolyn Womack is a boy-meets-girl pseudo-historical romance. But with a complex plot line centered around the concept of reincarnation, the hallucinatory effects of dreams, and the intricate nuances of the human memory, it is also a thriller/adventure/mystery that spans the courses of time as Bryan Pierce, a talented, yet tortured artist, tries to convince Lindsey “Linz” Jacobs, a brilliant neurogeneticist, that she is the one true love of his many lives. And if this isn’t complicated enough, consider that each of the main protagonists have their own lives to relive, exponentially multiplying the characters and their interrelationships in this tightly-knit, suspenseful debut novel.
Womack’s vivid imagination sparkles through this fun romp through many historical ages, following its hero through many dream-induced reincarnations which he depicts from memory on canvas. When, at an art gallery, Linz sees a work of his that graphically portrays a vivid nightmare she has had all her life, she is determined to meet the artist. Their fateful first tryst sets off a string of coincidences and life-altering consequences that literally couple Bryan and Linz forever in a struggle to preserve…um…all their lives together.
While nicely and compactly written, there are parts of The Memory Painter that are a bit too contrived, especially the historical figures and lives that Bryan, Linz, and some of the other characters purport to be/have been and lived; some reincarnations are “come on, give-me-a-break” implausible, even if couched in purely entertaining fiction. However, with its stark realism and mind-thrilling moments, this is one novel that is hard to put down at night until you can’t help but fall asleep. Yet, you need to be wide awake to catch the full impact of the gentle hints, plot line nuances, and subtle character associations that carry forward to its surprisingly twisted ending.
A jolly good, escapism story, The Memory Painter novel is best suited for young adult and more mature young-at-heart readers. Effectively crossing most genre barriers, Womack’s first entry into the world of fiction is to be read with many grains of salt and a generous amount of literary humor.
Reviewed by June J. McInerney
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