Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation Of A World War II Fighter Pilot by Bruce and Andrea Leininger with Ken Gross was published by Hay House. The book covers the search for the past of the Leininger’s son.
James Leininger was two years old when he started having atrocious nightmares. These nightmares of a burning plane with him inside flying led his parents on a quest to identify the soul that inhabited their son. Equipped with a few snatched words they imagined hearing like ’James Huston’, ‘Jack Larsen’, ‘Natoma’, and ‘Corsair’, they went out to find out about the previous life led by their son.
Their search led them to Japan, to an old lady who was the sister of a WWII hero, and to a veterans’ reunion of the Natoma, a US WWII aircraft carrier, while collecting the evidence for a case of reincarnation.
If the idea seems so preposterous to you as to be unbelievable, you are probably right. The initial plot is done quite well and in the confines of believable possibilities, it’s piling up the evidence that undoes the plot. Most revealingly, the most American of reactions is completely missing in the book: Calling in the shrink.
One of the proffered proofs included a book about Iwo Jima that Bruce Leininger presented to his father. It is quite clear at that point that the interest in WWII ran in the family, and I for one don’t know the stories the grandfather might have told his grandson. But it makes you suspicious about the premises of the research in the first place.
There are other inconsistencies: For instance, I doubt my son aged two would have been articulate enough to correct me from seeing a bomb underneath a fighter plane and tell me that it was a drop tank. And setting up the parents Leininger in the bad cop good cop alignment where Bruce doesn’t believe in it and Andrea does, doesn’t make anything more believable. It rather made me wonder why Bruce was doing all the research in a case he thought preposterous.
As the book progresses, the proofs provided get more curious, like the sister who had felt a presence on the day of her brother’s death, but remembered it only later (oh what wondrous things are our memories!). Starting out from ‘nobody saw him go down’, Bruce goes to find no less than two witnesses of the fatal hit over Japanese waters. Curiously, both witnesses hadn’t reported their observations on debriefing. What a coincidence.
The book is published after the ‘witnesses’ are all safely dead. This brings me to the conclusion that we are dealing with one more American urban myth. That the writing style is rather like the howling of a cheaply made advert doesn’t help either. Emotions are piled on witnesses and family reminiscent of a cake gone black in the oven and covered with oozing globs of topping to hide the damage and the bad taste.
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