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The Memorist
by M. J. Rose

Published: 2010-04-01
Mass Market Paperback : 480 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
As a child, Meer Logan was haunted by bizarre memories and faint strains of elusive music. Now a strange letter beckons her to Vienna, promising to unlock the mysteries of her past. With each step, she comes closer to remembering connections between a clandestine reincarnationist society, ...
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As a child, Meer Logan was haunted by bizarre memories and faint strains of elusive music. Now a strange letter beckons her to Vienna, promising to unlock the mysteries of her past. With each step, she comes closer to remembering connections between a clandestine reincarnationist society, Beethoven's lost flute and journalist David Yalom.

David knows loss firsthand--terrorism took his entire family. Now, beneath a concert hall in Vienna, he plots a violent wake-up call to illustrate the world's need for true security.

Join international bestselling author M. J. Rose in her unforgettable novel about a woman paralyzed by the past, a man robbed of his future and a secret centuries old.

Editorial Review

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Wassong bent down and inspected the slashes. “The rocks are sharp here. When you pulled it up out of the lake you must have ripped it.”

“No, I remember, I lifted it up. I didn't drag it, precisely for that reason,” David stared at the slashes. “Beside, these cuts are too clean to have been made on the ragged edges of these rocks.” Frantically, he scanned the cavern, his halogen beam flashing wild streaks of light on the rocky walls. “Someone did this. Someone is down here with us, Hans.”


“You sure? What if someone followed you here?”

“Me? Think about what you're saying.”

“What's going on then?”

“Maybe it was the rats.”

David's light beam shinned right into Wassong's light brown eyes. In an article, he'd once described them as surprisingly kind and he thought of that now.

“Rats, Hans?”

“There are thousands of vermin living in these tunnels, you've seen them for yourself. These marks certainly could have been made by a rat's claws. There's no reason to worry. You are overreacting - understand, I don't blame you - the stress you are under would make anyone overact. But we still have my raft. If this were some kind of suspicious activity, my lifeboat would have been attacked also. We have enough rope to rig my raft so that I can go across and then you can pull it back and use it.”

There was no other choice. The water was thirty percent hotter than the human body's temperature thanks to the geothermal heat under the lake's bed. If you tried to swim across you'd be boiled to death.

“Did you look? Are you sure your raft isn't damaged too?”

But it wasn't.

Wassong pulled a coil of rope out of his knapsack and knotted it through the plastic ring in the raft's rubber edging.

“This will work fine,” he said tugging on the knot. Done, he took his glasses off, wiped them on his bandanna, then wiped the bandanna across his forehead and finally put his glasses back on.

“Once I'm on the other side and give you the signal, you'll be able to pull the boat back.” He picked up the rope and tossed it to David.

Watching Wassong paddling across the water, the steam mist shrouding him, David thought about the likelihood of a rat ripping through the PVC. As if he were attempting to reconstruct it for a newspaper write up, he ran through his and Wassong's earlier actions once they'd reached the shore and stowed the boats. Did Hans have time to sabotage the raft? And if he had, why? Sweat dripped down David's back. He unbuttoned his workshirt and mopped his brow with the sleeve. Reaching into his knapsack, he grabbed his last bottle of water and drank down what little was left. They'd only brought supplies for the day and the day was over.

He listened to the even splashing of Wassong's oars.

When they'd come through this section earlier they hadn't lingered. Just inflated the rafts, unfolded the oars, paddled across, stowed the boats and then continued on. No, he suddenly remembered, they had stopped. David had needed to record directions for the map he was keeping so he could find his way back on his own next week. What had Wassong been doing while David had recorded his notes?

He tried to remember, thought back a few hours ago, but what came to mind was another night. The last time he'd used the recorder before today. He'd been fast- forwarding through an interview he'd taped, rushing to file a story about an uprising in the Gaza strip, trying to find one last quote. He'd looked up at the clock. It was 6:02 PM and he'd thought - I'm going to be late. I'd better hurry - not imagining that by then everyone - everyone - in his family was dead. Killed when an explosive was thrown into his house during his middle son's eighth birthday party. A gift from AhmedAbdul in exchange for David just doing his damn job.

Only he, late getting home that night, survived. Sparing his life was the sadistic trick of a god he no longer believed in. What kind of life could it be, would it ever be, when every minute of every day the slow motion imagery of finding the remains of that blast ran on an endless loop in his imagination, becoming more terrible with each replaying? That wasn't how time was supposed to work on memory. It should be smoothing the edges and filing down its rough rim.

And it wasn't just what he'd personally lost. The endless pattern of violence, reprisals, and more violence continued. Baghdad, Mogadishu, Tel Aviv, Sadr… David had covered terrorism since the mid 1990s, infiltrated sleeper cells, interviewed suicide bombers and their families. And now he though of a fellow reporter who had once written that facing an assault on its own survival, Israel should reject being a victim. “Instead,” he wrote, “it has the regrettable but clear corollary right to become an executioner. From the standpoint of providing security to its own citizens…this right has now become a distinct obligation.”

It was David's obligation, too. Not just as a reporter. It was his personal obligation. He'd had seen the writing on the wall and it was written in his family's blood: the time for building a better mousetrap was long past. There would always be a way to outsmart a new system. It wasn't about mousetraps anymore but about changing the way both the mice and the trappers think. And it was about punishing the men who'd built the systems that failed his family. In five days those men would be in the crowd, sitting a dozen meters above these caves enjoying the gala performance of the Vienna Philharmonic at the end of their annual ISTA conference. All they'd given him was an apology, and that was so little.

The splashing ceased. Wassong had reached the opposite shore and climbed off the raft onto solid ground. As he bent over, the beam from his helmet created a spotlight around him and shined on something that glinted cold and bright in his hand.

Like every Israeli citizen David had spent two years in the army and was trained to quickly size up dangerous situations. As soon as his mind formed questions, he searched for answers. Instantly he knew Wassong planned to cut the rope and leave David stranded.

Wassong never had any intention of sending the raft back, had he? This was all planned. But why go through the charade of bringing him here and showing him the crypt? For the money? It had to be. David's money first, and Abdul's money after.

Instinct took over with the kind of strength only fury provides, David jerked on the rope and started pulling it back as quickly as he could. The unexpected lurch yanked it out of Wassong's grip before he realized what was happening. Dropping the knife, he reached out with both hands for the raft. Wassong was trained too. He'd been a warrior all his life, but David was younger and stronger and the raft was already moving away from the shore.

Wassong misjudged its speed and arms outstretched, fell forward, screaming in anticipation even before he plunged into the water. Instantly, reacting to the pain, his body recoiled, lurching up, arching back. He was still screaming.

For a second David wondered if Wassong could somehow make it out. No, he knew that was impossible. He knew, because Wassong had warned him: no one survived the firewater. Wassong was splashing wildly, displacing a circle of water around him. He continued trashing for fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, forty, and then all movement ceased.

Hans Wassong lay still, floating face down in the boiling lake, his glasses bobbing beside him. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. What did it take for Meer to finally believe in reincarnation? Do you think that evidence would have convinced you?

2. Meer has a lingering memory that haunts her life. What makes a memory like that burn into your mind and last a lifetime? Is it something emotional? Or fearful. Or painful?

3. What does the book have to say about how religions form a canonical core of teachings by the exclusion of some beliefs? Is this true of most religions, cultures, or belief systems?

4. Why does the author use music as a focal point for triggering past life memories? Have you ever had an experience where music seemed to take you out of your current environment and into another place?

5. In what ways is David's response to the inability of governments to keep their citizens safe understandable? In what ways counter-productive? In what ways contemptible?

6. What lengths would you go to if your family came to the kind of harm that David's family suffered?

7. What else could The Dreads represent in Meer's mind? Do they align with her insecurities or her hopes?

8. Was Sebastian justified in what he did to try to save his son's soul? Was his ex-wife justified in keeping him away from their son?

9. How did Margaux's life in the past affect Meer's life in the present? Is karma fate, or can it be manipulated?

10. Do you think there could be a secret society dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of reincarnation? Why would such a society be secret--whose power would be upset if reincarnation were proven to actually exist? What is the appeal of reincarnation as a belief system?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Once upon a time, my husband and I went to Vienna on a vacation and fell in love. Not with each other - we'd already done that - but with the city.

Growing up in Manhattan you don't bump in to history on every street corner - mostly you're bumping into other people or great shopping or eating experiences. In New York you have to go out of your way to find 18th century history bit it's still alive on every block in Vienna. There's so much of it you are literally breathing it in. Arts and sciences have flourished here for centuries and whatever your passion you can visit museums, monuments and memorials to art, music, architecture, literature philosophy and psychology.

And visit them we did including making visits to homes of many famous people who'd once lived there and since my husband is a musician the trip turned out to be what I now jokingly call our Beethoven pilgrimage.

There are several of the great composer's residences in the city proper and its environs and we visited everyone of them as well as churches, cafes and music halls he frequented. We walked the streets he walked following the routes he took and spent one day wandering the woods he wandered during the summers he spent in Baden, a spa town an hour out of the city.

But it was in the Heligenstadt house that the idea for my novel, The Memorist was born.

The house at Probusgasse 6 is in a neighborhood called Heligenstadt at the bottom of the Kahlemberg, which in Beethoven's time was outside the city and filled with vineyards that are still growing there. And it was here at the end of the summer of 1802 that the 31-year-old Beethoven wrote the heart-wrenching Testament to his two brothers documenting his anguish at the onset of his terrible deafness.

The upstairs of this small apartment is open to the public and we walked through the ordinary rooms where he lived. Wandering over to the window I looked down at a simple courtyard where there was a single tree growing.

I stared at the gnarled, twisted trunk and the rich healthy verdant green leaves and realized that Beethoven must have once stood there and looked down at that same tree. Suddenly the composer's ghost was standing there with me looking out the window.

Later I told my husband what I had been thinking and he said: “You're going to write about that aren't you?” Until that moment I hadn't thought about it but after he said it, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

At home I read several biographies about Beethoven and in one discovered the great composer had been fascinated with Eastern philosophy which includes a strong belief in reincarnation. His own notebooks contain quotes a number of passages from Bhagavad-Gita. As well as a quote from William Jones that was included in his Hymn to Narayena, We know this only, that we nothing know.

And with that piece of information the idea at the heart of my tenth novel revealed itself.

The Memorist is not about Ludwig Van Beethoven although he does play a small part in it. Rather it's a suspense novel about a woman on a search for her own ghosts but it was Beethoven's spirit that inspired the book and his everlasting gifts to us are at the heart of the mystery I attempeted to unravel.

“I do not believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in this writer's ability to make you want to believe. This is the page-turner-you-cannot-go-to-sleep-till-it's-finished thriller of the year.” Sheldon McArthur, NORTH BY NORTHWEST BOOKS

The Memorist has garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and is on the November Indie Next list. Please visit MJRose.com and Reincarnationist.org to read an excerpt and find out more about M.J. Rose and her work.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "A very enjoyable read with great opportunity for discussion"by Gina M. (see profile) 02/20/09

  "I like the historic background"by Chary P. (see profile) 05/12/10

and several stories/ characters portrait at the same time. Although is a long novel the short chapters help make the action intrepid and more interested. I love the music involvement in the plot as well... (read more)

  "We enjoyed this book and had a lively discussion."by Carol P. (see profile) 02/20/09

  "Reincarnation"by Laura G. (see profile) 02/14/09

Our Book club won this book here on the Book Movement site. It was not the kind of book we would have gravitated towards and picked, but the club was surprised. Everyone loved this book! The storyline... (read more)

  "very enjoyable"by roseann s. (see profile) 02/13/09

Initially hard to stay focused, but continue on....good suspense, interesting characters and nice ending

  "Couldn't put it down..."by Robbie A. (see profile) 12/22/08

Full of mystery and suspense, there is lots to discuss in this book. Easy to meet the discussion deadline because you just keep reading "one more chapter" to see what happens next!

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