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Book Review: The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose

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With the The Reincarnationist, M.J. Rose has crafted a novel that is as interesting as it is entertaining. The idea of reincarnation is the backdrop in this thrilling story that blends mystery and suspense together for a gripping read. M.J. Rose has studied and based her story as much as possible on fact; she even provides a reading list once you’ve finished her haunting novel.

When we first meet Josh Ryder, a photographer on assignment in modern Rome, he is on the verge of surviving a terrorist explosion. Josh witnesses a security guard arguing with a woman pushing a stroller when his world disappears in a bright flash of light. He survives, barely, but the bombing changes everything about his life. Suddenly he can remember past life experiences; a pagan priest in Ancient Rome and a young man in the 1900’s of New York City are suddenly tantalizingly familiar to him.

With his present in ruins Josh has become obsessed with figuring out a past that haunts him. He becomes a member of the Phoenix Institute, a group of researchers that collect evidence of past life experiences from children. One of more prominent members, Malachai, offers to help him in return for his services as a photographer. Josh becomes a sort of pet project for Malachai, who has never had past life experience himself and to a certain extent is jealous of Josh.

As a member of the Phoenix Institute Josh returns to Rome less than a year after the explosion to photograph a freshly discovered tomb. In the tomb are the mummified remains of a woman, a Vestal Virgin, who Josh remembers. She is the woman who has been haunting him and in a flash of memory he knows her name and remembers her scent. But who was Sabina?

Julius is the priest from Ancient Rome whose life Josh has been remembering. With those memories comes Sabina. Lovely and vivacious Sabina, even as a memory, over shadows all other women for Josh. Julius, however, is living in a time when Christianity is overthrowing the pagan religions that Rome has lived with for so long, and he has found a little happiness in Sabina’s arms. Despite that, Josh feels as if there is some tragedy tinting these episodes.

Through the tomb Josh meets Gabriella Chase, a woman he is drawn to, and he wonders if she has some connection to his past. When the tomb is robbed of a precious artifact that can help a man remember his past, Josh is pulled into the race to recover it.

As the story unfolds the connections between the past and the present are revealed. M.J. Rose uses the idea that we reincarnate to make right the mistakes of previous lives to propel her characters forward; to make connections where someone else might only see coincidence. As a result, The Reincarnationist is an unforgettable novel that will leave you with questions about the mysteries of the soul.

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