October 07, 2011
Old Souls by Tom Shroder
The author, Tom Shroder, decides to investigate the paranormal and more specifically the concept of reincarnation. He bounces around in the beginning preface of the book talking about different researchers in the field, but then finally settles on writing this book about Dr. Ian Stevenson. Stevenson has traveled the world investigating claims of reincarnation and to Shroder's luck, invites him to come along to some of his last trips to Lebanon and India.
Their first stop is Lebanon where they meet with several families, and with the help of their translator Majd, talk with them about their experiences. Most of the people claiming reincarnation here are now older and this is more of a follow-up of Stevenson's original work. They first started experiencing different memories of a child and people around them claimed that they knew things only family members would have known. What makes their stories even more compelling as they are not picking out rich people to say they were once, but rather everyday people. One person, Daniel, believes that he was a mechanic in the past life. So clearly, for some, money is not a motive in these claims.
They then move on to India where they meet a couple children claiming they were reincarnated, and attempt to track down the story of another, who didn't experience their "reincarnation" until they were eighteen. They are largely skeptical of this story, especially when they cannot contact the woman claiming it and her family gives them trouble. At the end of the book they move on to some cases in the United States, but they seem rushed and not near as much detail is given about them.
Shroder, as a writer, to me is boring. He has such a fascinating subject with reincarnation but he jumps around so much and gives so much useless detail that the reading has trouble mucking about through this book. If he had cleaned up his writing and included more on the actual research instead of all their issues traveling (he goes on and on about the unsafe driving conditions in India) I think I would have enjoyed this book quite a bit more. However, while I am complaining about this detail of his writing, had the book been about traveling to these places it would have been immensely enjoyable. The fact is though, this book was about reincarnation and should have leaned more to writing about that.
Shroder is also a bit waffly on his beliefs on the subject. He offers plenty of criticism in one paragraph, then moves on to the next to be incredulous at some of the facts presented. Yet, he never comes out and clearly states what his reaction or beliefs are when presented with the evidence and face to face testimonies. I think its a bit of a cop out that he never fully says what he is thinking.
An interesting concept but he could have done so much more with it. Because of his way of bouncing about the subject matter, I only rate this book as average.
253 pages + a section of pictures