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Excerpt: The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation by Gwendolyn Womack

About the Book

Two lovers who have travelled across time.

A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research.

A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.

At once a sweeping love story and a time-travelling adventure, Gwendolyn Womack’s luminous debut novel, The Memory Painter, is perfect for readers of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Life After Life and Winter’s Tale.

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections―possibly even flashback from another life―and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.

Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet―visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

The Memory Painter is at once a taut thriller and a deeply original love story that transcends time and space, spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The paintings hung in the dark like ghosts. Too many to count— not an inch of wall space remained. The canvas eyes looked alive

in the darkness, staring at their surroundings as if wondering what alchemy had transported them to this place.

 

The artist’s loft had an industrial air with its Lego-like windows, concrete walls, and cement floor. A dozen bolts of Belgian

linen leaned in a corner next to a pile of wood waiting to be built into frames. Four easels formed a circle in the center of the studio,

a prepared canvas resting on each. Their surfaces gleamed with white gesso that had been layered and polished to an enamel-like

perfection, a technique used in the Renaissance to obtain a nearly photographic realism. This artist knew it well.

 

The paintings themselves were an eclectic ensemble. Each image captured a different time in history, a different place in the world.

Yet the paintings had one thing in common: all depicted the most intimate moments of someone’s life or death.

 

In one painting, a samurai knelt on his tatami, performing seppuku. He was dressed in ceremonial white, blood pooling at

his middle. The ritual suicide had been portrayed in excruciating detail, the agony on the samurai’s face tangible as he plunged the

blade into his stomach. Behind him, his “Second” stood ready, his wakizashi sword poised to sever the samurai’s head. In the next

painting, an imperial guard on horse back dragged a prisoner across a field in ancient Persia. And further along the wall, an old man

wearing a turban stared into the distance, as if challenging the artist to capture his spirit on the last day of his life.

 

The studio had three walls, and the entire space was closed off by an enormous partition of Japanese silk screens. On the other

side was a spartan living area with a kitchen hidden behind a sidewall. Down the hall, there was a smaller room unfurnished except

for a mattress on the floor. The artist lay sprawled across it on his stomach, shirtless and in deep sleep.

 

Without warning, he sat up and gasped for air, struggling out of the grasp of a powerful dream.

 

“I am here now. I’m here now. I’m here now. I’m here now.” He chanted the words over and over with desperate intensity as he

rocked back and forth in a soothing motion. But then, just as suddenly, his body went slack and his eyes grew distant as a strange

calm descended over him. He got out of bed.

 

Entering his studio like a sleepwalker, he selected several brushes and began mixing paint on a well- used wooden palette, whispering

words in ancient Greek that had not been heard for centuries. His hands moved with a strange certainty in the dark. Time

passed without his awareness. He painted until the hours towered above him, pressing down upon his body and begging him to stop.

His feet grew numb, his shoulders stiff with pain. When the sun’s glaring noon light reached his window, a piercing pain lanced

through his head, jarring him out of oblivion like an alarm clock. I am Bryan Pierce. I am standing in my studio. I am here now. I am

Bryan Pierce. I am standing in my studio. I am here now. I am Bryan Pierce. He forced the words into his consciousness, grabbing onto their

simple truth like a child reaching for the string of a kite. The words were the only thing that kept him from flying away.

 

Bryan’s legs buckled and he sank to the floor, leaning against the wall for support. Hands dangling over drawn- up knees, his arms

were streaked with every pigment on the studio shelf. His bare chest displayed similar stains.

 

He forced himself to study his most recent work, knowing that this was the quickest way to assimilate the dream. Only when he

felt able to stand did he get up and walk over to the video recorder in his studio. It was the highest- end digital camera that money could

buy and came equipped with an infrared setting to catch nighttime activity. He always kept it on. Bryan didn’t need to review the footage

to know he had been speaking Greek all night again. But the recording proved that it had happened.

 

Most mornings, observing himself on camera gave him some sense of peace. But today he didn’t feel like watching it—his vision

was still too present, like a messenger in the room. Somehow, this dream held answers.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema. Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel.

For more information visit Gwendolyn’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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