Daniel, David. “A Life Twice Given”, Berwick Court 2016.
The Mystery of the Past, the Uncertainty of the Future
Rachel and Joseph Jacobson, young couple, ignore warnings from their superstitious obstetrician not to name their firstborn, Joey. Then their lives are drastically changed when Joey their lives are turned upside-down when Joey is killed in a mysterious ATV accident after a last-minute change of plans by his father. The couple, as we can well imagine, is devastated and unwilling to let their son go. They go to Prague where they seek the help of a mysterious Jewish scientific fraternity that is willing to clone Joey but they warn them of unforeseen complications.
Joey gets a second chance and it is full with promise and love, but when tragedy strikes, Joey must come to terms with the mystery of his past and the uncertainty of his future. While this might seem to be in the tradition of novels such as “Rosemary’s Baby”, it is actually a look at identity and one that challenges the ideas of moving forward after a terrible loss as well as the Jewish traditions of the boundaries between life, death, mysticism, and reality.
There may be no loss as devastating as losing one’s child. Therefore it is really not our job to say anything about this to the couple that is overwhelmed by anguish when they accept the help of a scientific cabal that promises to clone their son Joey. (Personally I have a bit of a problem with having a clone replace Joey—no mater how much he looks and acts like Joey, the parents always know that the clone is just that, a close and while he might east their pain, I think that in the long run they might just feel pain that is much more intense. Though Joey’s promising second life will lead to love and a good job with the CIA, he is unaware of the circumstances, and the deleterious consequences, of his existence. When tragedy strikes, Joey must deal with the terms with the mystery of his past and the uncertainty of his future.
I love the idea of the novel and I love even more how well it has been thought out. We see a good deal about the boundary between science and fiction and the fact that the Jacobsons went to Prague to seek help makes this that much interesting. Prague has always seemed to me to be somewhat supernatural and paranormal but I suppose I got hat from the Golem stories (although I will say that both times that I was in Prague, I felt there was something sitting on my shoulder that I had never experienced anywhere else.
Author David Daniel writes beautifully about loss and love and actually shares with us how to face and overcome loss. I am quite certain that parents who lose a child deal with loss everyday and it is not as easy to move on when one buries a child. As I read this, I found myself thinking about science and faith and how death of loved ones affects us all of the time. The story follows and is written in the traditional of the mystical masters of Judaism and because I have always taken a key interest in these, I was totally into the book (as implausible cloning a child might be). I continued to feel the pain of the Jacobsons but I could not subscribe to the joy of a having another child who was simply the clone of the one that died. I cannot imagine anything spookier than that. However, this did not affect the emotional level of what we read— I still had tears in my eyes as I read and there were other times that I grinned for pages. It is impossible not to feel the depth of the love that Rachel and Joseph feel for each other.
I turned pages as fast as I could because I was anxious to find out what happened and when I did I found that I had the luxury to go back and read it for a second time but this time concentrating on things I missed during the first reading. I reveled in the beauty of the prose, something I had overlooked in the first reading. The characters are not likely to be forgotten and the plot kept me on the edge of my chair. This is one book you do not want to miss.