Many Lifetimes Ago

Published July 20, 2015

If novelist Susan Barker is to be believed, obsession never dies; it simply changes form. In The Incarnations (Touchstone), we’re privy to over a thousand years of coupling between souls ill fated for one another. Protagonist Wang is a taxi driver in 2008 Beijing and, we eventually learn, a six-time reincarnate who has endured the very worst travails of Chinese history. In one life he’s a slave to Genghis Khan’s marauding empire, in another he’s a female traitor to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. All of these lives end—and most end in a grisly fashion. It’s Wang’s latest that’s most mysterious, hustling between pickups and drop-offs, his days riddled with juicy secrets. Perfect fodder for summer’s waning, Barker’s novel is grim and gripping, a yarn for the ages.