The Incarnations is Susan Barker’s tale about two spirits that continue to find and love/hate each other from the Tang Dynasty (632 AD) up through the Beijing Summer Olympics (2008.) Well written, although some of the past encounters are more appealing than others, so the urge to pick-up the book will oscillate a bit. As a user of the earth’s most effective tongue, Dear Reader, whom the Chinese affectionately refer to as barbarian, foreign devil, gwai lo, etc…you will appreciate the insight into Chinese culture because besides a menu, you have none. Now mind, some of this may not be accurate, as you find out when you Google the Emperor Jiajing expecting a hyper-sadist biography, but it’s still more 411 on China that you came to the book with. A word of warning, if you are imagining a bunch of Romeo & Juliet iterations, consider that while a boundary condition of the reincarnation here is that you don’t come back as the main ingredient in General Tso’s Chicken and your soulmate as fodder for roast pork on rice, your gender isn’t a constant. Boy-girl, two boys, two girls…buckle-up Dear Reader. Also, don’t despair over the main contemporary character, Wang Jun’s, aim for a mundane existence as a cabbie, the people around him are interesting throughout.
Not raving about it…the first 5-pages of the book are critics, papers and authors doing that…but this is certainly a well done book. If you read it, keep a scrap of paper handy and try to map the spirits through time (and watch for other spirits.)