Q&A with Janet Rebhan, author of Rachael’s Return

1. Give a brief overview of what your book is about and why you wrote it:

Rachael’s Return is a novel that weaves magical realism in a domestic thriller about mother-daughter soulmates. After a woman unknowingly aborts a much-wanted baby girl during a routine hysterectomy, her baby’s soul seeks rebirth via the nearest “unclaimed” pregnant woman–prompting the intervention of two otherworldly guides who set out to bring the mother-daughter soulmates together using alternative means. By turns comic and tragic, Rachael’s Return explores concepts of the afterlife, reincarnation, and relationships that never die, even as it offers readers a glimpse of the mysteries that exist within the ordinary and challenges assumptions about the true nature of reality. 

I am always asking the existential questions: What is the purpose of life? Where do we go when we die? Why is there so much pain in the world? I was raised a Southern Baptist and am well versed in the bible. As I matured, the teachings of the church failed to satisfy my thirst for truth. So I left the dogma of religion behind, but held on to the mystical nature and core truths of my Christian upbringing; all the while continuing to learn from other belief systems as well as my own internal guidance.

I drew inspiration from a number of non-fiction books related to near death experience, the afterlife, life between lives, reincarnation, soulmates and soul groups. In think I was looking for an alternative afterlife explanation to replace the eternal-punishment-in-a-fiery-hell version for “sinners” that my religion taught.

I set out to tell a story that reveals life as it is with all its drama, and juxtapose that with the buoyancy of the supernatural. I wanted it to be entertaining for people to read, but also provocative and illuminating. 

2. Your book touches upon relationships that never die. Do you think two atheists, or people who aren’t spiritual, still have relationships in the afterlife?

I think consciousness survives physical death, and whether or not we have relationships in the afterlife depends, at least in part, on the belief system we hold at the time of death. 

At the most fundamental level, I believe we are all one. All of us make up the mind of the Divine. While we are incarnated, we think we are separate individuals. Our experiences are very real to us. And because we are made in God’s image, we each have the spark of the Divine within us. We each have the same ability of the Great Creator to manifest in the outer world that which we believe to be true at our core. 

When we die physically, we return to pure God consciousness or we reincarnate. Any experiences one might have of heaven or hell or anything in between are temporary states and are manifested in the immediate afterlife based on our expectations. 

So, if an atheist truly believes it all ends at physical death, they will not encounter pearly gates, streets of gold or soul groups, but they may be surprised to find that their consciousness has survived. At that point, they can remain as one with Divine consciousness, or they can re-enter the great dream, the great illusion, the game of life once again.

In the accounts I read about in books on near death experiences and past life regression, those who died–some of whom were atheists–came from a variety of belief systems and yet everyone was eventually met by someone in an afterlife scenario. Sometimes it was a guide, sometimes a loved one who’d already passed over, other times it was an angel. But the person who died always received assistance. 

Often the person who had passed would meet up again with a group of other departed souls whom they recognized as someone they had shared a number of past lives with in various types of relationships. Their soul relations, however, were not necessarily the same as their relationships while incarnated. So a married couple in an immediate past life together wouldn’t necessarily feel romantic toward one another in the afterlife; but they would still feel a camaraderie. 

3. What is your belief about soulmates? And, what do you think about research that suggests the idea of having a soulmate may lead people to have too high of expectations for their romantic partner?

I am defining a soulmate as someone you’ve incarnated with before on at least one other occasion–perhaps numerous occasions–and with whom you share a deep and special bond. So soulmates can refer to any type of relationship or partnership, be it platonic or romantic; as lovers, as a parent-child relationship, as siblings, or even close friends. The primary purpose is to experience and explore the bond, or perhaps to work out karma from a previous life together. 

In erotic relationships, the attraction to someone who feels instantly familiar to you is quite strong and definitely fuels the romance, at least in the beginning. But even soulmates eventually experience challenges. That’s just life. And you are still going to have to do the maintenance.

Yet I think the underlying bond you share with a soulmate is what enables you to get through the darkest times. It’s the connection that will keep you holding on, come what may. It’s the peace you feel with that person that you haven’t found with any other.

4. Do you think children pick their parents before they are born? If so, how can expectant parents prepare for the birth of their child?

I think they have help and guidance on the other side in making the right choice. I’ve read that when a soul wants to have certain experiences or achieve a specific goal, it contracts with other (parent) souls that can help facilitate those particular experiences or help it reach that express goal. This would all take place at the soul level. 

I think as expectant parents, it’s a good idea to meditate on what kind of soul you wish to attract into your family. Keep your thoughts pure and loving, happy and hopeful in general. Stay out of fear. Stay positive. Stay rooted in love and gratitude, trust and faith. 

5. Were any of the events in the book inspired by real life events? If so, would you mind sharing a little?

Well, you don’t have to look beyond the news headlines to find ideas to explore. Yet, I do think that the impulse to write an entire novel often comes from the things that have had the most profound effect on the author. And I can see now where some of my impulses came from in writing this novel.

I am the mother of two daughters, both now grown. So I definitely relate to my protagonist’s love of children and her view that being a good parent is a valid, important calling. The protectiveness I felt toward my daughters, and still feel, is a very real thing. I can also relate to my protagonist having prescient dreams and strong intuitions as these are things I also experience from time to time. 

Domestic violence is another theme touched on in my novel. And while I have thankfully never been in a relationship with an abusive partner, this particular type of tragedy has affected the lives of some of my friends, neighbors and extended family members and left a lasting impression on me.

I once rescued a young woman after she’d been punched in the face by her boyfriend. I was driving by when I saw it happen and I pulled over to offer her a ride. While driving her back to where she’d parked her car, she told me the guy was her boyfriend and that she had a restraining order against him, yet he continued to pursue her. 

I asked why she allowed him back into her life. “I guess he really loves me,” she answered. I remember telling her that’s not how love behaves. I like to think our five minute talk on the drive to her car made a difference in her life. I can see now I drew from this encounter when, for my novel, I created the character of a young pregnant woman who is abused by her boyfriend. 

6. What is the main takeaway from your book you’d like readers to experience?

I do not believe as an author I get to choose what people take away from the story. I think when you create art of any kind–whether it is a novel, a painting, a song or any other expression–it’s meaningful in some way to you, the creator. But once you release it to the world, it takes on a life of its own. So, people will be affected by the story in different ways, depending on where they are in their own life experience and level of development.

That said, I think the best takeaway experience that could happen would be if it inspires readers to trust their dreams and intuitions more, to embrace the mystical side of life, to understand they are never really alone, and not to ever give up hope. And perhaps to perceive the Divine in a new and inspired way, one that allows them to think outside the proverbial religious box.

7. Did you experience any serendipity or synchronicity in your personal or professional journey? If so, what?

Funny you would ask this question because I’m really fond of the word “synchronicity” and have used it in my writings. The story Carl Jung told about the golden scarab to illustrate synchronicity is one of my favorites. I recently posted about it on my website. 

I have experienced many serendipitous and synchronistic events, although I’m not sure the words have the exact same meaning. I think we only need to stay open and aware to notice these types of events when they happen. To me, they serve as confirmation I am on the right path. They are winks from the universe. Evidence of the magic behind the scenes. They are there for anyone who is inclined to listen to their intuitions. 

I think it is highly synchronistic that the current worldwide coronavirus pandemic is occurring at a time when so many people are waking up to spiritual matters. What we hold inside collectively is manifesting in our outer experience so that we can address it. And growth never comes easy.

 As sad and as difficult as it is for us to go through this pandemic, it is forcing us all to slow down and do some self-examination, to see our interconnectedness with one another and with nature, to reconsider some of our noxious business practices, and to come face to face with death and other tragedies we don’t like to talk about, but perhaps need to confront in order to heal and move forward individually and collectively.

Although it is heart wrenching for so many, it is an indication we are on the path of transformation and it carries with it the opportunity for greater self-awareness. Like the caterpillar going through metamorphosis, there are better days that await us on the other side of this if we can make the change by addressing our self-destructive habits. I see it as a chance for more of us to awaken, evolve and grow in consciousness; and in doing so, to work together to make the world a better place for everyone.

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For more information, visit Janet’s website at www.janetrebhan.com. 

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