Inventing Memory: Read it if you’re into mythic fiction, magical realism, or time-travel

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAnne Harris Inventing Memory fantasy book reviewsInventing Memory by Anne Harris

Inventing Memory is a book I found impossible to put down. Anne Harris kept me spellbound from beginning to end, with one hiccup: an aspect of the science-fiction twist that didn’t quite make sense.

The novel contains two parallel storylines. One is about Shula, a slave in ancient Sumer, who has visions that lead her to the service of the goddess Inanna. However, even as Inanna makes greater and greater demands upon her, Shula loses her heart to a different goddess, Belili, Inanna’s wilder rival.

In modern times, a nerdy girl named Wendy grows up, has a vision of Belili, and begins to dream of a life better than her social-outcast existence. She searches for goddess religion and matriarchy and eventually becomes a scholar of ancient literature, but meanwhile her relationship with her boyfriend Ray is becoming more and more troubled.

The two storylines are linked by the presence of Belili, a blend of the figure of Belili from “The Descent of Inanna” and Lilith from “The Huluppu-Tree” and other tales. Harris uses Belili as a symbol of freedom and personal empowerment in the lives of both Shula and Wendy. Later, the two narratives turn out to be linked in another way as well, by means of the aforementioned science-fiction twist. This twist contains what I believe to be a plot hole, and unfortunately it’s a big one with a lot of bearing on the rest of the novel. I’ll be as vague as possible, but it’s still a significant spoiler. If you want to read it, please highlight the following text: From what I understand of computer programming, there’s not going to be anything in the program that wasn’t put there by the programmers. I don’t understand why they thought they’d learn anything they didn’t already know. One character had an ulterior motive that made sense, but why was anyone else convinced? [END SPOILER]

Nonetheless, Inventing Memory is engaging. It’s filled with haunting myths and equally haunting depictions of life as a teenage misfit (and later as an adult growing into her strength), beautiful scenes of love and friendship, thoughtful discourse about ancient matriarchies and whether they existed, lovely prose, and all sorts of other good stuff. Read it if you’re into mythic fiction, magical realism, or time-travel storylines.

Recently, I learned that Anne Harris is also Pearl North, author of the Libyrinth young adult series. I’d been hemming and hawing about whether to read the Libyrinth books — but now that I know Harris wrote them, there is no more question about it. Flaws aside, Harris weaves a moving story in Inventing Memory, and I can’t wait to read her newer work.

Inventing Memory — (2004) Publisher: A one-of-a-kind novel, like nothing you’ve ever read, Inventing Memory is a stunning blend of fantasy and reality, exposing the secret links between the mythic, the mundane, and the timeless mysteries of the human heart. Shula is a slave in fabled Sumer — until Inanna, Queen of Heaven, appears before her. Chosen by the Goddess for reasons she cannot begin to fathom, Shula is freed from bondage and set upon an uncertain path toward a new and mysterious destiny. But the attention of the gods is a dangerous thing, and Shula may have cause to regret the day she first laid eyes on the Holy Inanna. Wendy Chrenko, former high school misfit, is now an overworked graduate student, researching her dissertation “Remnants of Matriarchy in the Ancient Sumerian Inanna Cycle.” Still smarting from the painful wounds of a failed love affair, Wendy is bound and determined to prove that men and women once lived together in perfect equality, even if it means volunteering for a bizarre and dangerous scientific experiment. Separated by millennia, Shula and Wendy appear to be two very different women, leading completely separate lives. Or maybe not.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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