Mother-Talk book review: The Reincarnationist
What happens when you die? Is it the end of the line—you get one turn on this earth and that's it? Or do our souls return again and again...perhaps to right ancient wrongs? That is the tantalizing premise of The Reincarnationist, the new suspense novel by M.J. Rose (Lip Service, The Delilah Complex).
Josh Ryder, a photojournalist, is on assignment in Rome when he becomes critically injured in a terrorist attack. As he recovers, he begins to experience “memory lurches”--flashbacks to what seems to be a past-life as Julius, a pagan priest in ancient Rome who is fighting battles both without (religious warfare has engulfed Rome) and within (a forbidden love affair with a Vestal Virgin, Sabina). His past and present blur to such an extent that he fears he has lost his mind.
Desperate for answers, he joins the Phoenix Foundation, an organization that studies reports of reincarnation and past life experiences in children. Under their auspices, he returns to Rome to investigate a newly discovered tomb that seems to have some connection to his memories.
Unfortunately for him, he is not the only one interested in the contents of the tomb—the fabled Memory Stones, mystical gems that give the owner the ability to go freely into the past. And others are willing to kill to possess those secrets.
Like Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code, to which The Reincarnationist will inevitably be compared, Rose manages to weave a great deal of research on religious myth and past-life regression into her tale. The flashbacks to ancient Rome are steeped in this scholarship—that world is evoked in dizzying immediacy. In fact, I always felt a little let down by the return to the contemporary story--the writing for these sections was terse, flatter. Josh and his cohorts didn't hold my interest as strongly as Julius and Sabine—the stakes for the latter simply felt higher. Not to mention, their love making allows Rose to show off her skills at erotic writing. The affair is sexy and intense.
Rose also works on a large canvas, with the result that it can be difficult to keep track of some of the characters and their place in the plot. I consider myself a fairly attentive reader, but I found myself paging back and forth to remind myself of who did what. As a writer, I'd love to see an example of Rose's outline—I admire her ability to pay off so many disparate stories.
After a slow start, The Reincarnationist managed to reel me in and keep me sneaking pages all day. Which doesn't say much for my mothering, but hey, I did eventually put the book away. OK, fine, I finished it, but let's not quibble...
This is the first book in a new series, which makes sense, as Rose leaves us with the strong suggestion that there are more stories to be told here. Obviously, she has a wealth of material to choose from. I'll be waiting to learn (and read) more.
To learn more about current research in the field, please visit The Reincarnationist. To read more from M. J. Rose, please visit her blog. Also, you can check out a podcast interview with the author here. To read more reviews of The Reincarnationist, please visit Mother-Talk.