Review of Soul Survivor by Bruce and Andrea Leininger and Ken Gross
This is going to be a tough review to write because I’m writing it on the thirteenth anniversary of my daughter Allison’s death. So the whole idea of reincarnation and how the stories in this book relate to me personally have left me with mixed emotions.
The book purports to tell the true story of how the nightmares of the Leiningers’ two-year old son led the parents and others to the conclusion that James was the reincarnation of a WWII fighter pilot named James Houston.
Now I want to be open minded about these kinds of things. For one, the book is presented as fact and I have to believe that the details in the book are true. But there are so many unanswered questions that I went from skeptic to believer and back to skeptic.
I do believe in the idea of reincarnation. I think when you see child prodigies excel in music or art that one explanation is that they are using skills learned in another life. I personally have, on at least one occasion, had a past life experience where I believed I had lived as a laborer in Egypt during the time of the building of the pyramids. I guess everyone can’t have been Pharaohs. If I am to believe the experience, I died in an earthquake near a pyramid. And I didn’t go right away. I was trapped in a confined space in a prone position and only able to move my arms and legs laterally.
But here are some of the unanswered questions brought up by this book. First there is the whole idea of the nightmares (my experience also came about in a nightmare). The pilot James Houston died in a plane crash during the battle of Iwo Jima. His plane was shot down and ended up in a harbor. James’ nightmares were of him being trapped inside the cockpit and not being able to get out. So that brings up the question of why would this horrific experience be the dominant memory that passes from one life to the next.
The parents claim that James had told them that he had met two fellow crew members in heaven after he died in the plane crash. Both crew members had died a few weeks and months before him. He also claims to have picked out his new parents before he was reincarnated. This is where I have the biggest problem. The writers offer no answers as to what was going on for those intervening forty or so years. If you are to believe the story, the pilot James Houston was reincarnated at the age he died. So what does that say about someone like my daughter who died at the age of six and a half weeks? My daughter never left the hospital. She never took a single breath on her own. She never saw a sunrise or a sunset.
As a parent who has lost a child, my experience is that Allison has aged along with me and my wife and is now a thirteen- year old. But this book would have you believe that she is still six and a half weeks old. And are the memories of the hospital the memories that are still with her? I would hope not.
I know there will be believers and non-believers. I would have liked a little more explanation about why children have these experiences and not adults (though my experience was as an adult). I would have liked to have known why some people are able to recall such details and others are not. And can James still recall details?
I want to believe that there is a Heaven. I want to believe that my daughter was chosen and that she is an angel. I certainly feel that she has been a guardian angel for my wife and I. I don’t want to believe that her only memories are of a hospital and life support equipment.
Either way, this is a fascinating book that will get you thinking. For me at this moment. I’m thinking about Allison and how much we miss her. I know I will meet her again some day.