Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review Club: Soul Survivor

by Bruce and Andrea Leininger, with Ken Gross
Grand Central Publishing, 2009

This is the story of a little boy with verifiable past life memories, and it's mindboggling. James Leininger started having intense, screaming nightmares when he was two years old. His parents, Bruce & Andrea, didn't know what to do to make the nightmares stop, but they paid attention and realized that he was screaming, night after night: Airplane crash! Plane on fire! Little man can't get out! When they asked him who the little man was, he said 'me'.

Even at age two, James was obsessed with airplanes and strangely knowledgeable about them. The details he came up with about the doomed pilot were eerie: his name was also James, he'd flown Corsairs, and his ship was the Natoma. He even identified a crew member by name. Bruce went online (this started in 2000, so the web wasn't as sophisticated as it is now) and started to look for answers to what his son was saying. He learned there was a WWII aircraft carrier in the Pacific theater called the Natoma Bay. It took a lot of searching and digging, but they were able to verify everything James said. The paperback copy I bought has photos of the ship and some of the men who served on it as well as pictures of James and his drawings.

At first the book reads like a paranormal detective story. As the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place, it becomes an emotional and spiritual journey for James's parents and for the reader. Bruce, a devout Christian, fought hard against the idea that his son was remembering a past life, so we get the skeptic's point of view. Bruce became an expert on the Natoma Bay, even attending the annual reunions and getting to know the vets and their surviving family members. But in the end, it was all about James. The ending is very emotional and heart-warming.

This is just an amazing story about a remarkable little boy, his loving and determined parents and the veterans and family of the Natoma Bay. If you already believe in reincarnation, this book will reinforce those beliefs. If not, it will give you something to think about. We may never be able to prove reincarnation one way or another, but James's memories provide compelling evidence for the theory of past lives. In any case, his story will touch your heart and soul.


Note: If any of this sounds familiar, you may have seen the story that aired on ABC's Prime Time on April 15, 2004. You can view it here:

Related article: Child Psychiatrist Says Past-Life Memories Not So Uncommon in Kids

Related books (all available from

Children's Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child by Carol Bowman, Bantam, 1998

Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives by Dr. Jim Tucker, St. Martin's Press, 2008

Old Souls: Compelling Evidence from Children Who Remember Past Lives by Tom Shroder, Simon and Schuster, 1999, pbk 2001

Click icon for more book review blogs @Barrie Summy


David Cranmer said...

The story is touching and I remember the ABC special from a few years back. Though, they left quite a bit out (that may explain the memories) that was later posted around the web.

This sounds like an exceptional read. Great review. Thanks.

Stacy said...

Wow, that sounds like a remarkable story!

Teresa said...

Great review, Linda. Thanks for the other informational links.

Teresa said...

Great review, Linda. Thanks for the other informational links.

Linda McLaughlin said...

David, I vaguely remember watching the show, too. This book is a great read. So interesting.

Stacy and Teresa, thanks for dropping by. Teresa, you'd like this one.

Sarah Laurence said...

What a perfect title! I can see this book appealing to other boys obsessed with planes. My father and then my brother had a WWI fighter plane propeller hanging in his room.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sarah, I'm not sure the book would appeal to children as much as adults, but I could be wrong. There's really not that much about the airplanes.

Sarahlynn said...

What a fascinating story. Thanks! Makes me wonder about my own 2-year-old night terrors.

Jenn Jilks said...

Interesting choice! I'll put it on my 'to read' list! Thanks for visiting My Muskoka!

Barbara Martin said...

As I already believe in reincarnation this comes as no surprise. Thanks for a great review.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Me, too, Barbara. It's a nice confirmation for those who believe in reincarnation, though I don't know if it can ever be proven scientifically. There is some strong evidence here, though.

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