Reincarnation Blues

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try? 

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.

Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

More than just Milo’s lover throughout his countless layovers in the Afterlife, Suzie is literally his reason for living—as he dives into one new existence after another, praying for the day he’ll never have to leave her side again.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

Because it’s more than Milo and Suzie’s story. It’s your story, too.

The idea of repeating life and death until you get it right, learned some kind of lesson, etc is not a new one as we’ve seen it play out frequently in literary and cinema; of course there’s also a major religion which holds this as a central tenet is their belief system.

Somehow Poore takes this theme though and turns into a beautiful story about love, hope and finding happiness in who you are and what you have rather than wasting your life chasing down some version that doesn’t exist. We follow Milo on his journeys, and there are MANY of them with reincarnations from people to plants to animals, as he repeatedly tries and fails to discover that one thing that will allow him to have permanent happiness. As frustrating as being born and dying almost 10,000 times must be for him, the viewer of his history is treated to an intriguing perception of how his adventures playout including the ones in between when he hangs out in the ‘afterlife’.

Milo is written as someone that can appeal to everyone because the obstacles he faces, sacrifices that must be made, the desires he hold are something everyone has come across during their life so we are allowed to examine ourselves through him to essentially take live and relive our own lives 10,000.

We are treated to essentially what is a string of short stories, glimpses into his lives and deaths. Some almost make you feel that his life and/or death were senseless, tragic, a gift, poetic, but all ultimately show that life and death hits us all and is inescapable. There’s almost something reassuring about coming to that understanding so you can stop chasing immortality through cosmetic surgeries, endless meals bookended by ‘vitamins’ and exercising to the point it is no longer healthy. Instead you learn to enjoy life, appreciate the day you have because it could be your last.

Even when he lived his life as a tree for hundreds of years he was still able to learn more than human beings I know because he didn’t allow his circumstances to define his thoughts, he allowed his thoughts to paint his circumstances. He could’ve been miserable standing there unable to interact with the world on terms as we know them but instead he used the chance to learn about the world around him.

The lessons are imparted with humor, horror, curse words that would make a sailor blush, poetic imagery and everything in between. Despite the potentially dire circumstances he faces if he can’t get things right Milo often doesn’t seem to let that faze him or truly believe he won’t find some way to scrape through so it colors his behavior and thoughts which at times can be maddening. I often felt like I was dealing with one of my children and wanted to scold him repeatedly to stop screwing around. Suzie would seem to balance him out, help him make better choices but she wasn’t given enough air time to make a real impact through most of the book.

I could definitely see this working out as a TV show as each episode could focus on one of Milo’s lives with him dying by the end of the episode and the series finale being with him finally learning what he needed to in order to end the cycle.

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