Second Lives

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

DNF @ 18%

I really wanted to like this book, but the narrative style just isn't for me. There were too many perspectives, people, and timelines for me to keep track of and it wasn't an enjoyable experience for me. I think this will be an amazing story, but it's been almost two months since I set it aside and I still don't have the desire to return to it. Perhaps I will try again down the road, and when I do I will be sure to take lots of notes.

Many thanks to Flame Tree Press for sending me an eARC via NetGalley for my honest review!
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I'm not going to review this book too much. I DNF'd at about 40%, not because it was terrible or anything like that, but because it just wasn't for me. I hate that I HAVE to rate this book. I don't like rating books I don't finish. Therefore, I highly encourage you to read what I have said and then make your own decision, and read other reviews as well.

I can definitely see why some people are going to love this book. The characters (from the little I read) were good, the plot is interesting, and the writing style was great. 

My sole problem with the book is that we are introduced to so many characters so quickly that I couldn't get a feel for any one character or their role in the story. By the time I gave up I don't think we had even gotten to the plot of the story and I had already been given so much information that it almost felt tedious to continue. If I have gotten nearly halfway through and I don't have a favorite character or an interest in the plot, then I have to just say this book isn't for me.
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*2.5 stars*

I had very mixed feelings about Second Lives. I also feel like it is going to be a little on the tricky side to explain as there is a lot of jumping around between various storylines. It is not particularly challenging to follow when reading it by any means. But having such a variety of perspectives has made it hard for me to pin down all of my thoughts about the novel as a whole. This was incredibly different from what I had expected going in. It is a very character driven novel and focuses less on the sort of sci-fi aspects—the explanations for why these unbelievably strange events are occurring. And though I do like when the development of the characters takes the lead, it felt like there was a lot missing from the plot.

In this novel, we follow eight different people’s stories, which technically pares down to four after the first part of the book. To set up the story, we get a brief view of every main character’s background and how they get into the situations they end up in. Four of these characters have died at some point in the past and the other four, in the present, have fallen into comas or are in some way very near death. However, something extraordinary happens when each of these patients suddenly wakes up after they have been declared dead. But what seems like a miracle soon becomes a nightmare for their loved ones when it is determined that the souls of others who have passed away many years before have taken up residence in these four peoples’ bodies.

Of course, this is a very fictional story, so it does seem a bit silly to comment too much on the plausibility of what occurs. To some extent though, having some amount of believability is crucial in order to allow readers to connect with and become immersed in the narrative. For me personally, there is a huge absence of this here. It is not the idea of other’s souls inhabiting the bodies of the recently deceased—that is a completely common and very interesting theme in science fiction. My issue is with both the lack of focus on how these events occur, as well as the way the characters’ loved ones handle their unique situations.

The portrayal of the main characters is, for the most part, the strongest aspect of this novel. Nora was, by far, my favorite of the bunch. I connected with her immediately and her storyline felt the most realistic. Her actions throughout the narrative—particularly the difficult decisions she has to make—were the most understandable. She is the most fleshed out of all the characters and Cacek puts a lot of detail and time into forming her and her life. The main themes dealt with in Nora’s part are actually ones that I tend to avoid due to personal experiences that make it too painful to read about. However, this is one of the very few exceptions I have come across in my life and, though it was still incredibly emotional, I really did like how things were handled.

On the opposite side of this, the other three perspectives are less detailed and go in directions that are pretty unbelievable. I never felt like I could picture these people as clearly—it is hard to get a handle on their personalities and relationships with others. Because of this, I could not connect with any of them particularly well. The choices they make in the end are odd and, honestly, a few are a bit uncomfortable. One huge plus though is that Cacek does a wonderful job of making each person very distinct. Having so many separate perspectives can oftentimes lead to a lack of definition between the various voices and behaviors of the individual characters. She avoids this pitfall very well.

As far as the actual text itself, Cacek’s writing is very good. She is clearly a talented and imaginative writer. I think the biggest issue is that she just took on way too many topics in too short a novel. Under these circumstances, it is impossible to fully address and expand on the most important areas. A lot of problems might have been solved if she had stretched the narrative out a little more. Also, the science fiction aspect of it could have transformed into something clearer and very captivating instead of feeling like a loose end. Despite the issues I had with it though, this was still an interesting read overall, and I would recommend giving it a try.
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I found this book to be fairly dull and repetitive and struggled to finish. The book opens with the deaths of several unconnected people who then later wake up, decades later, in other people's bodies in modern day America. It was an interesting idea, but there was not enough to keep me reading as the "what if" situations were very pedestrian and I struggled to invest in the characters.
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Second Lives takes the reader down an emotional and heart-wrenching journey through 8 characters, all of which have dedicated chapters written about them, detailing key events in their lives as well as their eventual deaths, and for some, reincarnation.

Whilst the early portion of the book read like a literary short story collection, introducing 8 characters with seemingly no relation nor connection to one another, the pay-off is in the perseverance, because once the you come out of the dark place of death and into the supernatural elements associated with spiritual displacement, things get very interesting. 

By no means for the faint of heart, Second Lives is the epitome of the 'tear-jerker'. 

Choc full of interesting and well defined characters who read as real as the people you know, all with their own unique voice and story to tell, once the characters align, the story really takes shape. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Not the book I was expecting but a very entertaining read.
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Review copy

P.D. Cacek's brilliant novel, Second Lives, tell the stories of Henry, Sara, Jaime, and Helen who all pass away in the present day.  It also tells us about Timmy, Elisabeth, Aryeh, and Crissy who have all died at various times over the last century.

The set up occupies the first third of the book and is overpoweringly sad, yet beautifully written.  I hate it when a writer makes me cry.  Don't put this book down.  No matter how you feel midway through this incredibly original piece, do not give up.  The payoff is definitely worth the wait.

The following quote borders on being spoilerish.  Skip it, if you are so inclined...

"There had been cases before of patients who had clinically died and been brought back, with or without medical assistance; but four patients who died on the same day, within hours of each other, and, who upon reviving, each exhibited a previously unidentified Cluster B personality disorder with dissociative amnesia, verged on the impossible."

Second Lives is a truly remarkable story of a group of people and their families thrown into an untenable situation and finding how they each deal with it.

Rumor has it, there may be a sequel.  If you're looking for a remarkable read and possibly a good cry, this is your next read.

100% recommended.

Published by Flame Tree Press, Second Lives is available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio formats.

From the author's bio - P. D. Cacek is the author of Canyons, Night Prayers, and numerous short stories.  Cacek won the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction for her story, "Metalica," which was later included in her short fiction collection, Leavings. She was born in Hollywood, lived for many years in Colorado, and now lives in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Note: This review has been submitted to Cemetery Dance Online for publication.
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Thank you so much Flame Tree Press for this advanced copy of 'Second Lives' by P.D. Cacek!
I first have to say how much I love the cover design of this book. Aesthetically it is gorgeous and that's what first made me want to read it.
Next, I would say I would rather give a 3.75 ish rating closer to a 4 buy not quite a 4. This story takes a while to kickstart. There were a few parts that I felt were completely unnecessary as far as character building goes. Some of the parts felt dragged out a little. I know some people may feel annoyed by the different types of representation in this novel, I personally felt that they were handled fairly well.
The writing was well done, very easy to read and comprehend everything. The ending(s) of each character...might have been a little cheesy, but when you consider the subject matter, I let that slide. Not everything has to be realistic to be good. Some cry moments, some sad moments, some angry moments...this book will make you question what you might do in the same situation.
Seeing as how this is the first fantasy genre book I've read (I know right) I'd say I enjoyed it very much! Would recommend!
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Imagine you have steeled yourself to say goodbye to your loved one. They are dying and there is no chance of survival. The machines flat line. Everyone is subdued and then they start breathing again. Is this a miracle? The doctors certainly struggle to understand it. Sorrow turns to joy and then to confusion. The body is your loved one but who is inhabiting it?

This story looks at the lives of just a handful of people. This is not an epidemic, nor a zombie invasion. Just a handful of people in one hospital who come back to life as different people. I like the idea that the author focused on just a few families in detail and didn’t try to encompass a world event.

The beginning of this book is quite difficult. The author devotes a series of chapters to individuals – those who will die and those who will return in their bodies. This made the beginning rather confusing. You are suddenly faced with a whole load of disconnected characters and lives with no story to link them. About a third of the way through the author does start to pull the threads together. I did struggle with the start of this book as it was so disjointed. Having completed the story I can see why the author chose to form the book in this manner but for the reader it was rather confusing. As a reader you may wish to make notes on the characters as they are introduced – it will definitely help later.

Despite this confusing start I enjoyed this book. Once it got into its stride I struggled to put it down. There are some wonderful characters and situations – I won’t go into detail, you need to read it for yourself. There were people I liked and didn’t like. The author drew everything together well at the end and I felt that the book was well concluded. There are no loose ends.

I will warn you, however, that you don’t receive an explanation. For some people this could be a major issue – why did this happen, how did it happen? We don’t know. If you need to know these things then don’t read this as it will frustrate you. I enjoyed not having the lengthy explanations as it allowed me to focus on the people involved.

An unusual book which I enjoyed reading.

I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.
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I'm not sure if it was because of the author or because of the cover, but I was expecting horror here.   So, if you were thinking along the same lines, this is supernatural, but not horror.

It's a mix of so incredibly sad and so incredibly hopeful.   

Cacek has a clear gift for characterization and, I warn you, each and every main character has a heartbreaking story line.  Tears were shed.

But the story lines were so very compelling and I had so much hope for all of them!

I loved this.  It was completely unexpected and completely wonderful.

*ARC Provided via Net Galley
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The first thing that goes through my mind when I’m overloaded with heaps of different characters and timelines is ‘How in the hell will I remember any of this?’. Luckily, Cacek saves the day by knowing about this and making effortless distinctions between the elephant in the room by helping us differentiate and keep track of the story.

I can breathe in ease and enjoy the book.

Being reincarnated has its share of drama and incredulous moments of how these individuals deal with the land of the living (rejection being the first topic which springs to mind) and as I read about how these characters struggle through the tumultuous reality of their situation, I was often thinking if it might have been easier to stay dead.

There are loads of troupes about the dead coming back, kick-starting romantic relationships between attention-driven teens, finding out they have powers (Peter Clines’ Ex-Patriots will make your YEAR), or simply trying to fit into every day society while ignoring the stench of their decaying bodies. Many have tried, many have failed, some even became brain-gorging success stories that they were made into TV shows I.

For those who read my review about Robert Haller’s Another Life novel, SECOND LIVES is another one of those. It comes in heavy with the emotional baggage but leaves with an ending that ties up any loose ends.
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Second Lives is a unique perspective on reincarnation. What would happen if your loved one died, yet came back. Not just that, but what if they came back as someone else? How would you handle that? How would they?

The beginning of the book covers the deaths of four people who seem to have little in common. They are different ages, different walks of life and had different causes of death. 

The next part has them waking up in other people's bodies. From there Second Lives goes on to ask the "what ifs" of this situation. 

While I prefer hard sci-fi this was a decent read.
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3 star review

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for review consideration.

An emotional, character driven book exploring reincarnation and a second chance at life.

I didn’t read the blurb before I requested this read, I just saw it was marked as Horror, had a pretty cool and creepy cover and gave it a go. I wouldn’t class it as Horror, but I am glad that I stuck with it. 

The idea of 'What happens when you die?' or reincarnation can be quite a frightening topic to think about, it is explored in Second Lives through the idea that old souls have 'travelled' and taken over the lives of souls who have all died on August 24th, 2017, giving them a 'second chance' at life. Although why the number of souls or why this date is never revealed in its significance. So if you're all about the why, this could let you down.

Now, if you don't like to be overwhelmed early on with characters then this probably isn't for you. You are alternated between eight characters and their families as well as varying time periods. You can tell when you're in the past, but I think early on it can be quite hard to really find a connection with any of the characters. Some characters are more likeable than others, and some you may hold grudges against. They can be quite forgetful and having so many makes the first few chapters pretty skimmable in my opinion. I couldn’t be bothered to learn everyone's names. It all ties up nice enough in the end, but getting there can feel a bit like hard work.

It is easily broken up into sections and the writing is really great. Each character has their own voice, you can feel their anguish, pain, suffering and in most parts it feels pretty real. Some stories take a realistic turn, and some are kind of farfetched and might have you questioning wtf is going on. 

I did end up enjoying this overall, and I shed a little tear at the end. I would definitely be interested in checking out more books by Cacek.

3.5 chocolate chip cookies!
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Award-winning writer P.D. Cacek delivers a full-length novel based on reincarnation that is very much character, rather than plot, driven with an interesting and memorable cast. It explores issues of life and death and the effects of each on families and the wider community. Having just lost someone close to me I could relate to the emotive scenes and felt they were beautiful and sensitively done. It's a well written, compulsive and thought-provoking read which blurs the line between myth and reality making us question philosophical principles of why we are here.

Second Lives is a surprisingly superb novel which manages to be rather difficult to classify. The best definition is a cross between speculative fiction, literary fiction and horror with some interesting supernatural elements thrown in for good measure. The writing and flow work perfectly to keep you grasping at straws and wondering what would likely come next. It's a unique story and one that you'll enjoy provided you can let go and suspend your disbelief. I look forward to picking up more of her work.

Many thanks to Flame Tree Press for an ARC.
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It has been a few years since the last full length novel from Cacek, and with SECOND LIVES she makes a powerful return to the form.

In this deep look at reincarnation, Cacek introduces us to four people (eight, technically) who have been declared dead, yet wake with new personalities. Nearly half the book is spent not only on the recently deceased, but we get backstory on the past lives whose souls are about to be brought into modern times. I think some will find this first half a bit confusing, but stick with it as Cacek manages to keep the reader interested in each person, and I found myself emotionally invested in each one.

I love how the author handled one character in particular, a Jewish man who had died back in the 1920s, and now has to deal with living as a person whose life wasn’t exactly in agreement with his own strict beliefs. Kudos for each of the other reincarnated souls, dealing with modern technology, illnesses, and other issues I’ve never seen dealt with in similar stories before. This here is no 70s b-movie...

While not scary in the traditional genre sense, the story’s third section is heartbreaking and forces you to consider some life and death issues that may not have occurred to you before, and hence makes SECOND LIVES one of those rare reads that becomes more than a  standard horror novel. And for that, this is not only one of Cacek’s finest works but one any fan of supernatural fiction will savor.

-Nick Cato/The Horror Fiction Review
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I'm DNFing this at 30%.  My most sincere apologies to the author and to Flametree who kindly approved me for this book on Netgalley, but ultimately I just can't connect with the story.
The writing is great, the author is very talented, but as of 30%, I just haven't connected and I'm struggling to want to go further.  The synopsis was very intriguing and the cover artwork is top notch, but this is just a case of wrong reader for the story!
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Ok... that COVER is SOOO creepy! I LOVE IT!

I was so intrigued by the subject of this book... and totally believe in reincarnation. I was totally on board with this book!

Few patients wake up in the hospital after they flatlined and wake up some else. Yes I know CREEPY! Possessed by someone else for no reason.

Second Lives explores the concept behind reincarnation through 4 cases. What happens when one soul leaves a body and another enters? It looks like the same person... but it is not at all. This concept to me is absolutely fascinating. I was super hyped to read this book but felt that the story really didn't end up going anywhere. I wish that it would have focused more on one case instead of the four cases.

I think more detail of explaining where the souls went and why etc would have added. lot more depth to the story.

Overall, decent read for me.

3.5 stars.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Flame Tree Press for the arc in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 4/11/19
Published to Goodreads: 4/2/19
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What would reincarnation really look like in practice?  Put aside the idea of waking up and being in the body of a zebra, a parrot, or an amoeba?  If there really was reincarnation, it would have to be a thing of people whose lives got cut short reappearing in other bodies.  But whose bodies?  Maybe the bodies of other people whose lives got cut short.  One day they are in the hospital and they flatline and a few hours later their hearts start beating again and they are someone else.  Possessed by someone else for no logical reason.  Second Lives explores this concept, first tracing several lives that had prematurely ended and then finding host bodies to be entered.  But what happens when one soul leaves a body and another enters?  It looks like the same person but it is not.  It is someone else there.  And how do the survivors deal with it?  What happens when your wife expires during childbirth but someone else takes her place?  Some other person from another time?  An interesting series of case studies, although the ideas didn't really seem to lead anywhere.  Perhaps following one story instead of four would have been more fascinating and perhaps explaining the who's and why's of why one soul survived to breathe another day and others didn't would have been helpful.
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This had such interesting characters and such sad undertones to the story.  It was creatively written and you could see how well planned out this novel was..
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I got about 1/4 of the way through the book, and I had to stop reading.  I found it to be  too tedious.  It definitely is not my cup of tea.  It's an interesting concept that's poorly carried out.  So far, the writer tells stories about different people dying.  I kept waiting for it to get better, but it never did.
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A very emotional roller coaster of a book! I went in expecting this to be a horror or supernatural book and I'm glad I didn't read any other reviews or the description because it blew me away. It is so much more. Emotional. Funny. Sad. Poignant. I found myself smiling as I finished it, knowing I'd just read something important.
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