Psychiatrist Astra Nathanson is such a repeater, an extremely old (but not wise) soul born again and again for a hundred lives, unable to love, obsessed with finding her way out of the repeated cycle of birth and death. When her daughter Kim, a blind marine biology student abandoned by Astra at the age of 6, calls her mother (reluctantly) to announce her engagement to Constantin, a handsome professor, she invites them out to visit her for a weekend, thus setting in motion a strange obsession, a vicious murder, and a cycle of betrayal and cruelty that continues through at least one more generation.
The book is chilling, and not for the faint of heart or squeamish. Kim, and her reincarnation Lucy, are quite lovable, well-drawn characters (character?), and the reader can grow very fond of them, making the psychological torture Astra inflicts on them hard to bear. Astra herself is almost pitiable as well as frightening, which makes her all the more terrifying.
Even the minor characters are well-drawn and feel as though they have life to them. The plot spans years, but feels energetic nonetheless, with plot twists around each turn – the resolution at the end, while satisfying to an extent, leaves the reader with an edge of suspense and a desire to see what happens next.
There are a couple of aspects of the book that raise questions – the main part of the premise that bothered me was why the victims of murder rather than the perpetrators are being found in need of lessons. (Would Gandhi, for example, as a peaceful man who was murdered by violence, be a repeater?) And given how very many human beings have been victims of violent murder in the past generation, if such people always remembered or bore scars of past lives, surely we’d have more evidence of such than we do now, and characters in the book would be less inclined to skepticism?
Additionally, the age difference between Lucy and Constantin is a bit awkward and creepy-feeling, even if she is the reincarnation of his former lover. Aspects of the ending are a bit predictable, but do not lose much force by that.
All in all, however, this is an excellent read for a lover of horror, particularly psychological horror stories. Only please, please, take the advice of this reviewer and do not read it just before bedtime. It’s too well-written for that.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader