Reincarnation Blues

Anyone who knows me even slightly will tell you I’m all about Zen, if you can’t figure it out for yourself in the first five minutes of conversation. In both my professional and personal social media, I often share quotes, proverbs, teachings, and things I’ve learned that have helped me let go of suffering.

And now I can share this beautiful, hilarious, and heartbreaking book.

Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is full of cosmicly perfect contradictions: glorious, insane, ridiculous, divine, fragmented, and undeniably whole. At heart it’s a simple coming-of-age love story, but because our protagonist, Milo, takes ten thousand lifetimes to get where the universe wants him to go – and from the viewpoint of the afterlife, linear time is a human construct, so we bounce around past, present, and future as he tries to get it right one more time – the novel is also remarkably complex. It moves from ridiculous to sublime and back, again and again, and I can honestly say I both laughed and cried while reading. Sometimes both at the same time. Because even the sad bits were beautiful, particularly toward the end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it can be summed up by one quote I absolutely love:

“Maybe you couldn’t get people to stop being predators, but you could get them to stop being prey.”

In some ways, the novel is less a novel than a collection of fairytales for grown-ups, around a central idea – the power of choice – with the same (but different every time) protagonist. In Milo’s journey to find a way to be with his true love while also attaining “perfection” so he can stop being reincarnated and avoid oblivion, we see him at his best and worst, exalted and lowly, selfish and compassionate. Poore excels at making every moment of the book do triple or quadruple duty: every life adds something to Milo’s overall progress, shows us who he is in a wide variety of circumstances, illustrates human foibles as well as the human capacity for greatness (also in a wide variety of circumstances), and is wildly, uniquely entertaining.

Poore’s style is a joy to read, at times playful and sleek, at others muscular and somber, but always graceful and nuanced. I’m a picky reader when it comes to sentence craft, and I never once was pulled out of the story by an error or awkward construction. I’d offer blessings on the author’s head for that alone, but he also managed to create characters I loved and cared about while telling a terrific story and sharing some lovely but never preachy philosophical insights.

Krishna devotees believe they can pass on good karma through food that’s been prepared with love and spiritual awareness, and that’s how I think about Reincarnation Blues:

People may read it just for the captivating story, but whether they know it or not they’ll be soaking up spiritual goodness with every word.


I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash