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Given a journal belonging to an uncle he never knew existed, Sean Corrigan embarks on a quest across the Atlantic—and lifetimes—in search of the truth about Michael Corrigan, a cop accused of murder who fled to Ireland.

Sean falls in with his Irish family, who are privy to an ancient knowledge: that reincarnation is real and, while most of us don’t remember past lives, some, by taking belladonna and reaching a hallucinatory state close to death, can remember their former lives. Sean soon learns he is part of a karmic cycle in which bloodshed begets bloodshed and some mysterious debt needs to be repaid. The action shuttles between Sean’s narrative and that of his uncle Michael, whose flight from an almost certain murder conviction takes him to the Corrigan family’s ancestral land. Both experience uncanny bursts of insight and familiarity—e.g., understanding and speaking Gaelic despite never having learned the language. Michael realizes that his father, whose idea it was that he visit Ireland, has used him as a mule to smuggle cash to persons sympathetic with the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Both Sean and Michael fall for beguiling Irish lasses: Sean for his cousin (not by blood) Anne, and Michael for Kate Ryan, who tends the counter at a grocery store he happens upon. Soon enough, both become embroiled in ancient animosities and conflicts, encountering enemies English and Irish. This intertwining, transgenerational epic of romance and revenge never overcomes its protagonists’ naiveté, especially Sean’s, whose every paragraph ends in a series of questions illustrating his confusion at what is immediately obvious to the reader. As he seeks pages missing from the journal, Sean spouts trite observations on Irish culture and quasi-philosophical digressions on the implications of reincarnation as Anne clues him in to how this secret knowledge has been encoded in the parables and mythologies of the major religions. Michael’s narrative of being caught in the bloody struggle between members of the Provisional IRA, the British and with one another is more compelling. Unfortunately, weak writing and crepe-thin characters, as well as unnecessary redundancy between the dual narratives and uninteresting denouements make for an unrewarding read.

A potentially good idea lacking adequate execution.


Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-56512-933-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2012


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