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    Review of KARMA by Robert Zitella

    BlueWater Press, February 2008

    Brad Jenkins has defeated his alcohol abuse issues and now has a beautiful wife and two wonderful children. As the new mayor of his small town, he's in a position to make a difference. Yet his nightmares continue to grow. Even the meditation he's relied on seems inadequate to let him control these dreams. It isn't only the dreams, though. In an important meeting, he falls into a rage, threatening the councilmen who don't see things his way. Then, later, he finds himself in the middle of the night with blood on his hands--only to learn that one of his opponents had a dog killed during the night.

    Brad wrestles with his dreams, seeking help from a doctor and a psychologist. The psychologist talks to him about the Buddhist belief in reincarnation and Karma. Could he somehow have accumulated a huge Karmic debt from an earlier life--a debt so large it will doom him no matter what he attempts to accomplish. Certainly things turn even worse when the trusted city manager makes off with the money intended for a school expansion--with Brad's signature on the check.

    Brad's problems grow worse and he slowly loses control of himself. One after another, his support system evaporates--and he becomes the suspect in multiple crimes. At the same time, his memories of an earlier life continue to grow stronger. Could he actually have been Hitler himself? With Hitler's obsession with the occult, might Brad actually carry more than Karmic debt? Might he hold secrets to incredible wealth?

    Author Robert Zitella spins an intriguing story about a man who may be losing his mind, but who's doing so in a way that's both highly suspicious and very dangerous. Zitella seems to go out of his way to make Brad unsympathetic. From his treatment of his wife to his mostly-missing memories of various crimes he may have committed to his self-obsessive behavior, Brad isnt' anyone you'd want to make friends with. Creating a character with so many flaws makes for a writing challenge. How can the author make the reader care about what happens to a man who is essentially unlikable? It's a challenge Zitella struggles with. Brad loves his wife and family a lot and this goes a long way toward redeeming him--at least until we see how self-absorbed and controlling his love is.

    Zitella hangs his story around a question of Karma. Could Hitler, who is responsible for so many millions of deaths, have created a debt so huge that it can poison the lives of anyone whose soul is associated with that damaged being? If so, what should the damaged soul do while struggling under the burden?

    Zitella's writing is strong enough to give the story some interest. I would have liked, however, to see a stronger goal on Brad's part. For me, at least, the resolution didn't quite work. By offering a physical explanation for Brad's increasingly irrational behavior, Zitella may have intended to introduce a question into the reader's mind. Instead, I only shrugged. Similarly, the epilogue was a bit creepy, but because I hadn't cared about the characters, I didn't really have a lot of concern for what would happen next.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 4/29/08

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