The Bottom Line: A spellbinding medical thriller that artfully blends the concepts of past lives and genomic imprinting into a truly fresh novel.
During a Saturday night jog in Florida, an obscure piece of music trivia comes to psychologist Jennifer “Jo” Hart. She has no idea why she knows this. In the next instant, she’s shaken by a memory of herself at age fourteen so visceral that she runs away before dropping to her knees. And then, as a stranger offers help, she can’t remember her own name. And when Siri answers her query perfectly – “Your name is Jennifer Hart. People call you Jo. Close friends call you JoJo” – she reacts violently.
By the time she wakes up in a mental health hospital after being involuntarily institutionalized, doctors are puzzled. Photos of her admittance show tracks in her arm, but there are no signs of opiates, alcohol or other drugs in her system. There’s no sign of a bacterial infection or anything else.
But the man mopping her room, Diego Guzman, looks familiar to her. Likewise, Diego also finds Jo oddly familiar. After having a near-death experience in which he recalled a past life in the 1920s, he has come to believe that he had a sister who was abused by their alcoholic father. Could this be her? And if so, could it be a chance to right the past regret that is now imprinted on his genome?
What follows is a riveting journey into an exploration of identity, reincarnation and science. Concepts such as genomic imprinting are fascinating when coupled with the prospect of knowledge and trauma carried forward from past lives. And the story is not merely limited to Jo and Diego. A certain doctor is believed to be “acting out unconscious compulsions and propensities which followed him” from a past life.
The first thing readers will appreciate in House of Giral is the level of medical detail. Author Mark Laurence Latowsky had a long career in family and emergency medicine that includes significant experience with addiction and mental health. Every word uttered between medical personnel feels authentic. Far-reaching discussions of topics such as insect-based genome research, hallucinogens, the nature of evil and more add to the fun – all of which Latowsky manages to connect to the larger narrative.
Readers looking for a thriller that will open their minds and spark the imagination will love House of Giral.