Sunday, April 19, 2015

'The Incarnations'

It seems that the older I get, the longer my illnesses last.  Well, at least it feels that way.

I've had a horrible cold for almost a week, and it is just now tapering off.  I still have a scratchy throat and a ton of mucus, but the worst thing of all is that I can't taste anything. Or smell anything.  No chocolate.  No potatoes or chicken. No beer/wine.  No anything.  I feel no joy in eating just enough to keep my engine running.

At least I still have books.   

There are gifted authors who make me think about my past and past pasts in a way that doesn't contain a new age vibe.  I believe in reincarnation and it's evil stepchild, karma, so that's why Susan Barker's newest novel, 'The Incarnations', hit the spot and made me forget all about my big, bad, nasty cold.

The first letter falls into Driver Wang's lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi on Worker's Stadium road in Beijing, a polluted, congested city preparing for the 2008 Olympics.

Who are you? you must be wondering. I am your soulmate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of sixteen million in search of you.

More letters follow, telling Wang more stories about his previous lives with this past soulmate.  Driver Wang suspects that someone is watching him, and with each letter, he feels the watcher grow ever closer.

I was spellbound from the very first page.  Who is this mysterious 'watcher'? And why is this person suddenly making an appearance in Wang's life?  I never guessed the answer; never came close.  And that's why this story is so, so satisfying.

Barker's powerful voice pulls you into present-day Beijing, and across pivotal points of Chinese history.  It is brutal and heartbreaking and each letter evokes a time of utmost desperation.  

Author Susan Barker
As for her characters, there's a thin line between love and hate.  Wang's father is a brutal, domineering man who has a pathetic karma.  And his second wife is not the easiest character to like, although I found her refreshing, to some extent.  Wang's wife and daughter suffer the pangs of living near the edge of poverty.  You fear for this little family, but, most of all, you fear for the emotional health of Wang, a man stalked by someone he thinks he knows.

It is a story full of love and longing, hatred and revenge.  

This is a novel that is very hard to set down...  

...and hard to forget.

'The Incarnations', by Susan Barker, will be published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, in August 2015.

1 comment:

WritingGoddess said...

Would love to borrow this one, friend. Might be just what I should read while recuperating from surgery!