4 out of 4 stars
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In Souljourner by Paul Steven Stone, David Rockwood Worthington is serving time for the murder of his wife, Anna — a crime he does not deny. In this crime story, David Worthington believes an alleged 'Karmic Gravitational Slide' has strongly predetermined the course of his life. His situation is worsened by a vengeful spirit too familial and determined to wreak havoc in his life.
The first thing that readers or 'souljourners,' as the story insists on calling readers, will observe is the unique narrative technique. The narrator (I say 'narrator' instead of the author because one gets the feeling that it is the narrator, a character in the book, and not the author that does the writing) writes directly to the readers whom he insists are 'the reincarnated souls of the narrator.' The effect of his assertion is that the story being told is the reader's story from another incarnation. The tone is interactive because the narrator is writing to himself!
From the beginning of the book, the facts are laid out by the narrator. He tells us he is in jail for murdering his wife and what was responsible. Ordinarily, this should have been a spoiler for "the great plot reveal," but not in Souljourner. Despite the revelation of the book's substance early on, readers will still not escape the thrilling shivers of suspense and spiraling waves of anticipation and curiosity. I am awed at the author's creativity and mastery in engaging storytelling.
The narrator presents this book to readers as something deeper and more than just a story. It's as though he hasn't entirely decided whether the book should be a story or a spiritual book. Indeed, Souljourner takes readers on an exploration of ideas, which some may find 'bone-chilling' and others simply ludicrous. The narrator argues for the touchy subject of 'reincarnation' and boldly asserts that all humans are reincarnated. This idea may be comforting to some and deeply disturbing to others. The idea of reincarnation is merely one of the spooky topics the book touches, as the narrator delves into other ideas that validate the active existence of a spiritual realm. He also talks about out-of-body experiences and predestination. These topics undoubtedly raise a myriad of questions. Here are a few of the questions: Are humans genuinely powerless in the face of the universe's predestined life pattern? How far-reaching is the influence of the dead on the living?
The narrator is right when he writes that readers will take from the book whatever they choose. Some may decide to go away with an obstinate reservation about some of the discomforting ideas. Others can choose to take inspiration from some characters in the book, like Tom Brazos, David's friend and psychic. Tom believes we sometimes forget it is not the body we love but the spirit inside. This statement aptly captures what humanity should be about — the inside and not the physical.
With riveting characters, the book culminates into an ending that may be as creepy as the story concept itself. Readers are sure not to get lost with a helpful glossary that provides the meaning of specific strange terms.
Besides a few minor errors, I have no issue with this book. I recommend it to readers who are not afraid to read something that challenges their natural disposition to life. I rate this book four out of four stars.
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