Have you ever had that feeling when you meet someone for the first time that you have met each other before? After Amanda saves Chicago Mounted Police officer Mark Callahan, neither one can shake the feeling that they already know each other. Thus begins the character’s journey in Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation.
The story starts with a literal bang, and you’re in the action right away. We get our two leads, the object that ties them together somehow (hint: it’s a clock), and the magnetic pull that draws them together to figure out just why they feel that way. The author playfully takes her time dropping hints and defying expectations while we wait for the topic of reincarnation to be addressed in the story.
Once we finally get to the point that it is a possibility, we journey through Amanda’s present and past lives while we work toward figuring if or how she knew Mark and just what that connection actually is.
As a reader/listener, my interest was so-so in the beginning. I think the narration wasn’t as strong at that point or I simply didn’t like it as much. I found Amanda to sound weak, but at the beginning of the story Amanda is weak (mentally, not physically). Once we got to the Civil War flashbacks, I was all in. I found that timeline and those characters much more interesting than present-day Chicago. The parallel timelines worked for me, and it was great to get both of them resolved by the end of the book.
I am a frequent audiobook listener, and I know how a great narration can elevate a mediocre book. Likewise, a poor narration will make it very difficult for a good book to shine. The narrator for this was very good, and though I’ve not heard any of her work before, I would give future listens of any of her productions a chance.
She had to bring to life characters of different ages and ethnicities, and to that she succeeded. She even did a rather impressive owl in the nighttime sound that could have been straight from nature. My favorite of her voices was that of Mary and Mark when he starts slipping into his Irish brogue.
I would also like to point out here that the narration for the regression scenes was particularly well done. We hear Mary speaking to Amanda and guiding her through the process. It was done in such a calming way that I could almost believe I could put that section of the book on and put myself into a past life. As I was operating heavy machinery at the time (i.e. driving), I didn’t do it and don’t recommend it to any of you, either. In the safe comfort of your own home, have at it.
The only negative of the narration itself that I would specifically want to point out is that the voice for Ed Morgen seems a very odd choice. He sounds like an old Scandinavian from North Dakota or Minnesota, though it isn’t stated in the text or by the character’s name to be the case. The narrator is consistent, but it’s odd all the same.
Chicago as Character:
In many stories, the setting can become a character all its own. In this story, Chicago native Samyann puts in the confident details to make Chicago vital to its role as the setting. This story, in either time line, really couldn’t have happened anywhere else, and it begins at the start when Amanda is looking out through her window and sees the Ferris wheel on the Navy Pier. Amanda’s cat is even named Oprah, a cute, though sometimes distracting detail.
Some of the writing shines in what might seem as throw-away details that would have been forgotten or skipped with other writers. In one scene, Mark has a toothpick and it is explicitly stated that at one moment the toothpick is flat across Mark’s bottom lip. In a different passage later in the book, Mark sits down and is described as putting his ankle on his knee. (Samyann does it better than I did just there.) That is such a typically male piece of body language, and it helped make Mark seem a more complete person.
I found Amanda to be a completely frustrating character. She is so damaged and wears her damage close to the surface at times. I don’t think Amanda was a poorly written character. I actually think the opposite is true. She was so well written that it made my time with her uncomfortable for me since I am not naturally sympathetic to that type of person. Many times I wanted to slap the woman and tell her to stop wallowing in self pity. I am obviously not as kind as Mark, who had the patience of a saint.
Though I didn’t initially like her very much, I did hold out some hope that the author would make Amanda’s narrative arc one where she conquered her personal demons, and by the end she is in a much better place as a character.
Book covers are an art, and in many indie books they can be embarrassingly bad. This cover is not that kind at all. It is truly clever and appropriate to the story, and the font choice is appropriate and effective.
Lots and lots o’ Alcohol:
I am not a drinker, and I find mentions of it in writing laughable and distracting. Many times it seems like an attempt to make a character look cool and sophisticated, but that backfires for me as a reader. In this story, Amanda and Mark are drinking at almost every single occasion they are together, and there are usually multiple drinks. The first time Mark stays over at Amanda’s apartment he does so because he’s too drunk to go home.
I was starting to get put out with the alcohol mentions that had seemed more like unnecessary scene flavoring, but it resulted in a very specific plot point. After one particularly stressful regression, delicate Amanda goes on this 3 day drunken bender in her apartment where she has done nothing but drink and drink. Mark goes to check on her and helps sober her up against her will. After that point, the alcohol mentions almost completely disappear.
Sex and Language:
Yes, sex happens, but never explicitly on the page. The author avoids describing the actual act, and scenes fade out usually right before or fade in right after. This is not a problem as it seems to fit the tone of the story well. The most sensual scene is a shared shower scene, but even that is kept from being too explicit.
As far as language, yes, there is swearing in this story. It’s not a main feature. There’s actually more alcohol than colorful language. I would say it’s appropriate to the characters and doesn’t detract from the story.
Miscellaneous bits and bobs:
This isn’t a comedy, but there are a few big laughs from the book really took me by surprise.
At about two-thirds into the book, Mark is critically injured and has an out of body experience. The writing and narration for that scene is very deft, one of the better scenes of the book.
I thought antique dealer Ed Morgen would play a bigger role in the book.
I also thought Mary might die by the end of the book since she is old and so important to Amanda (hint 2: she doesn’t).
Further, I had hoped perhaps we’d see Mark’s cop partner Pete get himself a girl, but there are only so many side plots a writer can put into a book without losing focus.
As an indie debut novel, this delivers an interesting, quality story that one might not expect to find in the sea of self-publishing. The pieces all tie together in the end to give a satisfactory experience, and I’m sure the author worked very hard to bring it together. When she did, though, the effect of the whole is that it’s exactly the story it should be.
This would appeal to those who love a mystery (what about the clock?), the Civil War, and a love story with a hero who does not give up on his heroine. I don’t think belief in reincarnation is required to enjoy the story, though an open mind and suspension of disbelief wouldn’t hurt.
My real rating: 4.5 stars (but 5 because we really can’t give half stars anywhere)
Disclaimer: I received a free Audible download for this story in exchange for an honest review.