Thursday, October 10, 2019

Graphic Novel Review: Old Souls

The grown-up graphic novel Old Souls by Brian McDonald (author) and Les McClaine (illustrator) explores a concept that has long fascinated me, perfect for this spooky season: reincarnation. I read Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta when I was a teenager and have been captivated by the idea of reincarnation ever since. Old Souls scratched that itch, with an engaging, powerful story that kept me reading. My only complaint is that it was over too soon.

Chris is a happy guy, friendly and kind to everyone he meets. He works in an electronics store at the mall and goes home to his wife and young daughter. Life's not perfect: Chris has a mysterious back pain that won't go away, and money is tight. He always finds a few extra dollars, though, to buy lunch for a homeless man who hangs out at the food court in the mall. Chris is drawn to the old man but can't explain why. The man keeps trying to talk to Chris and one day tells him, "You remember more than you think you do. Everyone does." Finally, he tells Chris that he used to be his Chinese grandmother in a previous life, but they were separated when the Japanese attacked. The old man explains that he has been looking for Chris ever since, finally finding him in this life. At first, Chris thinks he's crazy, but he has a vivid dream where he is a little Chinese boy, frightened, lost in a huge crowd, and searching for his grandmother. He begins to talk to the old man and listen to what he has to say. Eventually, Chris convinces him to take him to see his friends, who all remember their past lives. Chris wants them to help him remember past lives, too. The old man warns him against it and tells him it will ruin this life he has now, but Chris is too caught up in the drama and mystery of it all to take his advice. He learns some very disturbing things that take him to the brink of insanity.

A page from Old Souls, where Chris buys lunch for the old man

I enjoyed this graphic novel so much! McDonald takes the innate fascination of reincarnation and builds a thought-provoking, compelling story around it. The graphic novel format is perfect here, with realistic drawings (sometimes crossing centuries of history) in black, white, and green that evoke the darkness of the story. Chris' journey back through time hits some highs and lows, but one of his past lives, in particular, affects him so deeply that he struggles to bring his mind back to the present. I was completely absorbed by this moving, thoughtful novel and never wanted it to end.

246 pages, First Second

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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  1. Super interesting concept. I kind of like the idea of reincarnation, but can't quite get myself to truly believe in it.

    1. Same here, Helen, though it's fun to consider...