5 reviews

The Reincarnationist
by M. J. Rose

Published: 2007-09-01
Hardcover : 455 pages
27 members reading this now
13 clubs reading this now
8 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 5 members
A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white light, and photojournalist Josh Ryder's world exploded. From that instant nothing would ever be the same.

As Josh recovers, his mind is increasingly invaded with thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the "intimacy" of memories. But they are ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


A bomb in Rome, a flash of bluish-white light, and photojournalist Josh Ryder's world exploded. From that instant nothing would ever be the same.

As Josh recovers, his mind is increasingly invaded with thoughts that have the emotion, the intensity, the "intimacy" of memories. But they are not his memories. They are ancient--and violent. A battery of medical and psychological tests can't explain Josh's baffling symptoms. And the memories have an urgency he can't ignore--pulling him to save a woman named Sabina--and the treasures she is protecting.

"But who is Sabina?"

Desperate for answers, Josh turns to the world-renowned Phoenix Foundation--a research facility that scientifically documents cases of past life experiences. His findings there lead him to an archaeological dig and to Professor Gabriella Chase, who has discovered an ancient tomb--a tomb with a powerful secret that threatens to merge the past with the present. Here, the dead call out to the living, and murders of the past become murders of the present.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


"I simply believe that some part of the human self or soul is not subject to the laws of space or time."

-Carl Jung

They will come back, come back again,

As long as the red earth rolls.

He never wasted a leaf or a tree.

Do you think he would squander souls?

-Rudyard Kipling


Rome, Italy - Sixteen Months Ago

Josh Ryder looked through the camera’s viewfinder, focusing on the security guard arguing with a young mother whose hair was dyed so red it looked like she was on fire. The search of the woman’s baby carriage was quickly becoming anything but routine, and Josh moved in closer for his next shot.

He’d just been keeping himself busy while awaiting the arrival of a delegation of peacekeepers from several superpowers who would be meeting with the Pope that morning, but like several other members of the press and tourists who’d been ignoring the altercation or losing patience with it, he was becoming concerned. Although searches went on every hour, every day, around the world, the potential for danger hung over everyone’s lives, lingering like the smell of fire.

In the distance the sonorous sound of a bell ringing called the religious to prayer, its echo out of sync with the woman’s shrill voice as she continued to protest. Then, with a huge shove, she pushed the carriage against the guard’s legs, and just as Josh brought the image into that clarity he called "perfect vision," the kind of image that the newspaper would want, the kind of conflict they loved captured on film, he heard the blast.

Then, a flash of bluish white light.

The next moment, the world exploded.

In the protective shadows of the altar, Julius and his brother whispered, reviewing their plans for the last part of the rescue and recovery. Each of them kept a hand on his dagger, prepared in case one of the Emperor’s soldiers sprung out of the darkness. In Rome, in the Year of their Lord 391, temples were no longer sanctuaries for pagan priests. Converting to Christianity was not a choice, but an official mandate. Resisting was a crime punishable by death. Blood spilled in the name of the Church was not a sin, it was the price of victory.

The two brothers strategized—Drago would stay in the temple for an hour longer and then rendezvous with Julius at the tomb at the city gates. As a diversion, that morning’s elaborate funeral had been a success, but they were still worried. Everything depended on this last part of their strategy going smoothly.

Julius drew his cape closed, touched his brother’s shoulder, bidding him goodbye and good luck, and skulked out of the basilica, keeping to the building’s edge in case anyone was watching. He heard approaching horses and the clatter of wheels. Flattening himself against the stone wall, Julius held his breath and didn’t move. The chariot passed without stopping.

He’d finally reached the edge of the porch when, behind him, like a sudden avalanche of rocks, he heard an angry shout split open the silence: "Show me where the treasury is!"

This was the disaster Julius and his brother had feared and discussed, but Drago had been clear – even if the temple was attacked, Julius was to continue on. Not turn back. Not try to help him. The treasure Julius needed to save was more important than any one life or any five lives or any fifty lives.

But then a razor sharp cry of pain rang out and, ignoring the plan, he ran back through the shadows, into the temple and up to the altar.

His brother was not where he’d left him.


No answer.


Where was he?

Julius worked his way down one of the dark side aisles of the temple and up the next. When he found Drago, it wasn’t by sound or by sight – but by tripping over his brother’s supine body.

He pulled him closer to the flickering torches. Drago’s skin was already deathly pale, and his torn robe revealed a six-inch horizontal slash on his stomach crossing a vertical gash that cut him all the way down to his groin.

Julius gagged. He’d seen eviscerated carcasses of both man and beast before and had barely given them a passing glance. Sacrifices, felled soldiers or punished criminals were one thing. But this was Drago. This blood was his blood.

"You weren’t… supposed to come back," Drago said, dragging every syllable out as if it was stuck in his throat. "I sent him… to look in the loculi… for the treasures. I thought… stabbed me anyway. But there’s time… for us to get out… now... now!" Drago struggled to raise himself up to a sitting position, spilling his insides as he moved.

Julius pushed him down.

"Now… we need… to go now." Drago’s voice was weakening.

Trying to staunch the blood flow, Julius put pressure on the laceration, willing the intestines and nerves and veins and skin to rejoin and fuse back together, but all he accomplished was staining his hands in the hot, sticky mess.

"Where are the virgins?" The voice erupted like Vesuvius without warning and echoed through the interior nave. Raucous laughter followed.

How many soldiers were there?

"Let’s find the booty we came here for first," another voice chimed in.

"Not yet, first I want one of the virgins. Where are the virgin whores?"

"The treasury first, you lecherous bastard."

More laughter.

So it wasn’t one man; a regiment had stormed the temple. Shouting, demanding, blood-lust coating their words. Let them pillage this place, let them waste their energy, they’d come too late: there were no pagans to convert, no treasure left to find and no women left to rape, they’d all already been killed or sent into hiding.

"We have to go…" Drago whispered as once again he fought to rise. He’d stayed behind to make sure everyone else got out safely. Why him, why Drago?

"You can’t move, you’ve been hurt…" Julius broke off, not knowing how to tell his brother that half of his internal organs were no longer inside his body.

"Then leave me. You need to get to her… save her and the treasures.... No one… no one but you...."

It wasn’t about the sacred objects anymore. It was about two people who both needed him desperately: the woman he loved and his brother, and the fates were demanding Julius sacrifice one of them for the other.

I can’t let her die and I can’t leave you to die.

No matter which one he chose, how would he live with the decision?

"Look what I found," one of the soldiers shouted.

Screams of vengeance reverberated through the majestic hall. A shriek rang out above all the other noise. A woman’s cry.

Julius crawled out, hid behind a column and peered into the nave. He couldn’t see the woman’s upper body, but her pale legs were thrashing under the brute as the soldier pumped away so roughly that blood pooled under her. Who was the poor woman? Had she wandered in thinking she’d find a safe haven in the old temple, only to find she’d descended into hell? Could Julius help her? Take the men by surprise? No, there were too many of them. At least eight he could see. By now the rape had attracted more attention, drawing other men, who forgot about their search to crowd around and cheer on their compatriot.

And what would happen to Drago if he left his side?

Then the question didn’t matter because beneath his hands, Julius felt his brother’s heart stop.

He felt his heart stop.

Julius beat Drago’s chest, pumping and trying, trying but failing to stimulate the beating. Bending down, he breathed into his brother’s mouth, forcing his own air down his throat, waiting for any sign of life.

Finally, his lips still on his brother’s lips, his arm around his brother’s neck, he wept, knowing he was wasting precious seconds but unable to stop. Now he didn’t have to choose between them: he could go to the woman who was waiting for him at the city gates.

He must go to her.

Trying not to attract attention, he abandoned Drago’s body, backed up, found the wall, and started crawling. There was a break in the columns up ahead; if he could get to it undetected, he might make it out.

And then he heard a soldier shout for him to halt.

If he couldn’t save her, Julius would at least die trying, so, ignoring the order, he kept moving.

Outside, the air was thick with the black smoke that burned his lungs and stung his eyes. What were they incinerating now? No time to find out. Barely able to see what lay ahead of him, he kept running down the eerily quiet street. After the cacophony of the scene he’d just left, it was alarming to be able to hear his own footsteps. If someone was on the lookout the sound would give him away, but he needed to risk it.

Picturing her in the crypt, crouched in the weak light, counting the minutes, he worried that she would be anxious that he was late and torment herself that something had gone dangerously wrong. Her bravery had always been as steadfast at the stars; it was difficult even now to imagine her afraid. But this was a far different situation than anything she’d ever faced, and it was all his fault, all his shame. They’d risked too much for each other. He should have been stronger, should have resisted.

And now, because of him, everything they treasured, especially their lives, was at stake.

Tripping over the uneven, cracked surfaces, he stumbled. The muscles in his thighs and calves screamed, and every breath irritated his lungs so harshly he wanted to cry out. Tasting dirt and grit mixed with his salty sweat as it dripped down his face and wet his lips, he would have given anything for water – cold, sweet water from the spring, not this alkaline piss. His feet pounded the stones and more pain shot up through his legs, but still he ran.

Suddenly, raucous shouting and thundering footfalls filled the air. The ground reverberated, and from the intensity he knew the marauders were coming closer. He looked right, left. If he could find a sheltered alcove, he could flatten himself against the wall and pray they’d run past and miss him. As if that would help. He knew all about praying. He’d relied on it, believed in it. But the prayers he’d offered up might as well have been spit in the gutter for the good they’d done.

"The sodomite is getting away!"

"Scum of the earth."

"Scared little pig."

"Did you defecate yourself yet, little pig?"

They laughed, trying to outdo each other with slurs and accusations. Their chortles echoed in the hollow night, lingered on the hot wind, and then, mixed in with their jeers, another voice broke through.


No, don’t listen. Keep going. Everything depends on getting to her in time.

A heavy fog was rolling in. He stumbled, then righted himself. He took the corner.

On both sides of him were identical colonnades with dozens of doors and recessed archways: he knew this place! He could hide here in plain sight and they would run by and—


The voice sounded as if it was coming to him from a great blue-green distance, but he refused to stop for it.

She was waiting… for him… to save her…to save their secrets…and treasures…


The voice was pulling him up, up through the murky, briny heaviness.


Reluctantly, he opened his eyes and took in the room, the equipment, and his own battered body. Beyond the heart rate, blood oxygen and blood pressure monitor flashing its LED numbers, the IV drip, and the EKG machine, he saw a woman’s worried face watching him. But it was the wrong face.

This wasn’t the woman he’d been running to save.

"Josh? Oh, thank god, Josh, we thought…"

He couldn’t be here now. He needed to go back.

The taste of sweat was still on his lips; his lungs still burned. He could hear them coming for him under the steady beat of the machines, but all he could think about was that somewhere she was alone, in the encroaching darkness, and yes, she was afraid, and yes, she was going to suffocate to death if he didn’t reach her. He closed his eyes against the onslaught of anguish. If he didn’t reach her, he would fail her. And something else, too. The treasures? No. Something more important, something just beyond his consciousness, what was it—


Grief ripped through him like a knife slitting open his chest, exposing his heart to the raw, harsh reality of having lost her. This wasn’t possible. This wasn’t real. He’d been remembering the chase and the escape and the rescue as if they had happened to him. But they hadn’t. Of course they hadn’t.

He wasn’t Julius.

He was Josh Ryder. He was alive in the 21st century.

This scene belonged sixteen hundred years in the past.

Then why did he feel as if he’d lost everything that had ever mattered to him? view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1. Before reading The Reincarnationist, what did you know about pagan religions? Did the book shed any light on early religion for you and make it easier to understand how some superstitions came to be?

2. Josh Ryder is skeptical about reincarnation when this book begins. At what point does he start to believe? Or does he? Did your journey with the concept of reincarnation coincide with Josh’s in any way?

3. Have you ever experienced déjà vu? Is this evidence for reincarnation or just an act of the imagination?

4. Josh is a photojournalist by trade; how does his occupation play to the themes of the novel?

5. What makes reincarnation such an attractive notion to so many people? How do its operations interact with your other belief systems?

6. The Reincarnationist pays a lot of attention to art, in curation and in auction, how did those aspects of the novel enhance the story?

7. In this book, memory stones hold the key to past life regressions. What other tools or circumstances are possible catalysts for such events?

8. It’s rare for a book of fiction to contain a bibliography at the end. What do you think of all the research that’s been accumulated concerning reincarnation? What do you make of the fact that most past-life memories come from young children?

9. Some readers have found the ending of this book very controversial. Not many novels end with a denouement of this kind. However, some say that there could not have been any other ending—what do you think?

10. What do you think the ultimate message of the book is? Is it a positive, hopeful one?

Suggested by Members

Who was Sabina?
by vrtikapa (see profile) 12/03/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A note from MJ to BookMovement members:

When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known.

He became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone in his past. And over time, after more incidents, my mother – a very sane and logical woman -- also came to believe it.

Reincarnation was an idea I grew up with that my mom and I talked about and researched together.

For years, I wanted to write a novel about someone like my mother – who was sane and logical – who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. To really explore the subject from a literal and metaphorical point of view. But I was afraid if I did people would think I was a “woo woo weirdo”.

I tried to start the book ten years ago after my mother died but I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to be able to explore it objectively. Every once in while the idea would start to pester me again but till I stayed away from it.

Then a few years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece, who was a toddler at the time, said some very cruious things to me about my mother and I – things she really couldn’t have known -- and the pestering became an obsession.

Josh Ryder, the main character has my mom’s initials, her spirit and her curiosity and like her, he’s a photographer. But there the similarities end.

When Josh star starts having flashbacks that simply can’t be explained any other way except as possible reincarnation memories he goes to New York to study with Dr. Malachai Samuels -- a scientist and Reincarnationist who works with children helping them deal with past life memories.

In the process Josh gets caught up in the search for ancient memory tools that may or may not physically enable people to reach back and discover who they were and who they are.

Rather than me tell you anymore about it, let me pass on what a wonderful author, New York Times Bestseller Douglas Preston, says about it:

“The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose has got to be one of the most original and exciting novels I’ve read in a long time, with a premise so delicious I’m sick with envy I didn’t think of it myself. The novel’s exhilarating story sweeps the reader across the centuries, from ancient Rome to the present day, with stops in between. It will open your mind to some of the incredible mysteries of the past and the greatest secrets of existence. The Reincarnationist is more than a page-turner—it’s a page-burner. Don’t miss it.”

The book has garnered stars from both Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and is a BookeSense pick for September. I think of all my books, this is the one my mom would be the most proud of which is fitting since it’s really the one she inspired.

Book Club Recommendations

The Memorist
by lollygil (see profile) 07/14/09
Another tale of reincarnation by MJ Rose.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "The Reincarnationist"by debmcvmom (see profile) 12/03/10

A disappointing story with an even more disappointing ending. A great idea but poorly developed.

  "Da Vinci Code-esque look at reincarnation"by vrtikapa (see profile) 12/03/10

Not as good as Da Vinci Code, and was disappointed with the ending.

  "Interested topic."by mpaniaguatej (see profile) 10/03/10

I first red The Memorist and i think I enjoyed that more than this one. May be I expect too much from this book due to the fact that is the 1st of the trilogy. Anyway, it was a nice reading and opens many... (read more)

  "Interesting but confusing!"by jessjohnson (see profile) 07/01/10

The theory of reincarnation is interesting, however the mulitple story lines and plots in the book makes story kindof confusing. Overall interesting book.

  "Interesting adventure"by blueeyes (see profile) 06/28/10

It took me a little while to get started on this book. The beginning was a little slow but the more I read the more involved I became in the characters dilemma. The Reincarnationist is full of adventure... (read more)

  "Captivating Read!"by lollygil (see profile) 07/14/09

I read MJ Rose's The Memorist before I read this book, and found as much as I enjoyed that one, The Reincarnist become my favorite of the two. It's a great read with suspense, romance, mystery and history.... (read more)

  "Rich with detail"by robbieadkins (see profile) 12/26/08

This book is filled with many concepts that one could spend hours discussing. One chapter draws you into the next so it is a very enjoyable read. A great choice for any club.

  "Josh Ryer, after an accident, begins having unsettling memories of two previous lifetimes. His current life falls apart, as he investigates the two previous lifetimes."by cat6405 (see profile) 06/08/08

I wanted to like The Reincarnationist more than I did, especially with a bibliography that included Jung and Weiss.
This book kept my attention, but the writing was choppy and the character
... (read more)

  "Interesting, thought-provoking, disappointing ending"by Madam Secretary (see profile) 12/05/07

We had mixed reviews about the book. Most enjoyed reading the book, going back in time, being in Rome, etc., but were disappointed in the ending.

  "Do some homework and this book is an excellent Book Club read."by nycrules (see profile) 10/11/07

I liked this book, and I think it makes an excellent book club read, simply because of the history entailed in the story lines. I personally did not know much about Pagan religions, I went online and did... (read more)

Rate this book
Remember me

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.



Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...