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"Again and Again" | Reviewed by William Winkler

Eugene Miles, the narrator and protagonist of Jonathan Evison’s most recent novel, ”Again and Again,” is a reclusive, curmudgeonly resident at an assisted living facility in California’s Mojave desert.

Miles describes himself as 106-years-old. Early in the narrative he informs us that has lived multiple lives in past centuries and that he now hopes for a death that will not return him to this earth. We learn that he has lived in 10th century Moorish Spain, 19th century America as a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, as Oscar Wilde’s cat, and a handful of other incarnations.

            Such is Miles’s desire for a death that will finally free him from his seemingly endless cycle of return to life that he avoids interaction with his fellow residents and the staff at Desert Greens. His days are filled with jigsaw puzzles, reading, and long, purposeful naps.

            Into Miles’s solitary life comes Angel, a 23--year-old Latino orderly and housekeeper, newly hired at the facility. Angel attempts to engage Miles as he makes his daily rounds of cleaning the room, calling the aged hermit “dog, Geno, homie” and other terms of familiarity. Miles resists interaction, but Angel’s good-natured persistence eventually breaks the barrier and begins to draw the elder into a relationship. The two of them end up eating lunch together on a daily basis.

            During these meal breaks Miles begins to share stories of his past lives, the most detailed of which is his existence a millennium ago in Seville. It was in Seville that Miles, as a Visigoth urchin and cutpurse named Euric, meets Gaya, a member of the resistance. Gaya rescues him after he steals a purse from a wealthy Berber. He and Gaya are captured and subjected to tortuous imprisonment, after which they are separated. Euric never sees Gaya again in that lifetime, but he will always remember her as his first and only true love. He will encounter her again down through the centuries in various guises, always identified by a distinctive mole near her right nostril.

            As Miles’s relationship with Angel deepens, so does his antipathy toward Walter, the facility’s clinical social worker. Walter sees it as his mission to discern whether Miles’s stories of past lives are delusions, evidence of impending dementia.

            The appeal of the novel is the growing recognition that nothing in the story is as it appears to be on the surface. Revelation after revelation, surprise after surprise, will keep the reader turning the page until the final pages, where Miles realizes that over the centuries love has been a constant he has failed to recognize.

            Buy the Book.


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