Vijaya Schartz, whom I met at the Tucson Festival of Books, has written many exciting "romance with a twist" novels. She signed Ashes for the Elephant God for me and I read it with pleasure.
As part of my misspent youth, I gained significant exposure to Hindu culture, so the exotic setting was easy for me to imagine, but anyone could pick up this book and understand even its highest concepts because the author so clearly (and entertainingly) explains how it all works.
The basic premise is that in the 1800's, four souls -- beautiful, poor Lakshmi/Fabienne, handsome Mukunda, depraved Shankarananda, and evil princess Korana -- entered into deadly conflict, which is told in highly sensory flashbacks that come to the modern-day characters in dreams or visions. Thrown back together in India from all the corners of the globe, the modern characters learn about their past lives together in tantalizing bits and pieces while they try to understand their destiny in this life.
Although I can tell when reading this book that English is not Schartz's first language (she was born in France and took on her first name while living in India), the language was perfect because the book is told from the perspective of the French main character and is filled with the Indian English of the many people she meets. Truly, reading this story is like voyaging across the world with the characters.
This book is inherently optimistic, and the final message is that even if it didn't go so well in the last life, this time around, you have a chance to make good, and improve your karma, and even... be happy! It's an important message, even for people who don't believe in reincarnation, because it implies that it's never too late. It's never too late to change your behavior in the world, it's never too late to start again, and it's never too late to be happy and/or help others to find their happiness. Schartz's characters get to live out their happiness in all its glory at the end of the book. It's a dose of bliss in what can be a dreary world.
It would make a great movie.
* The Trip Around the World Mega Author Blog Hop ends today at midnight Arizona time (which is the same as Pacific at this point). Get your comments in (start here)! And thanks for hopping with us! Winners will selected tomorrow.