“… fast-paced, emotionally compelling, and hard to put down … a blend of murder mystery, spiritual travelogue, and thought-provoking thriller.”
— Midwest Book Review
Unfinished business — that’s why they say spirits linger on our mortal plane. It’s our soul’s need for not just closure, but resolution that keeps us tethered. So, what if humans could help these souls journey forth into the next life and fill their current existence with purpose? Perhaps it’d be a second chance for them both.
In Anna M. Elias’s debut novel, The Vessels (Vesuvian Books), humans “at their most broken,” those who have suffered loss and endured immense pain, become hosts to spirits that have yet to cross over into Elysium, helping them find forgiveness, restore love and right wrongs from their pasts.
Elias has created a world in which every soul has the opportunity to atone, no matter what hurt or harm they caused in their mortal life. But what if an undeserving spirit were to return? As the newest Vessels — Tal, Link, Avani and Aaron — prepare to take on spirits from every era, place and culture, they encounter a rogue spirit on his third and final journey, seeking more than just redemption.
Perhaps this kind of equality — allowing any spirit that chance to set things right — isn’t fair, especially to those who never needed absolution. “Some souls deserve to rot in hell,” don’t they? But as the new Vessels come to learn, our choices in life “are not always wise … Nor do they always reflect the person making them.”
Tal, Link, Avani and Aaron each struggle with forgiveness; they struggle to forgive the demons who haunt their pasts and they struggle to forgive themselves. Through the program and their connection with the spirits they help, each Vessel begins to heal, finding purpose where there had previously been none.
Eternal bliss springs from compassion and love, “a pure, unselfish, unconditional love that [is] both all-powerful and drop-to-your-knees humbling.” The experience of serving others is healing, fulfilling and, ultimately, freeing for each of the Vessels.
Elias challenges her readers’ ideas of forgiveness as she presents them with spirits, Vessels and humans from all walks of life. Cop and criminal, parent and child, predator and prey, innocent and guilty — the characters span myriad roles, bringing the perspectives of different nationalities, races, genders and classes into the conversation.
Despite this novel’s themes of redemption, forgiveness, love and compassion, the narrative gifts readers a healthy dose of action and suspense as well. Like any good sci-fi/fantasy, there is a singular evil that the protagonists face, yet in chasing that evil, the reader must confront the sprawling grey area in which most of the characters reside — they’re complex, flawed and utterly human … most of them, anyway.
When readers close The Vessels, they’ll be left with so many more questions than when they opened it — but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Elias presents us with the soul — free from judgment and hate — and holds it against the reality of flesh, easily molded by human fears and beliefs. The journeys that Vessels take change them, save them from themselves, as much as they change and save the spirits that they help. Elias asks us to challenge our human inclinations and look within, leaving readers with an emboldening cry: “Serve others before yourself … That fulfills any soul.”
“Merged” is a Trippy YA Sci-Fi Adventure That Asks Big Questions