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A 3rd Time To Die by George A Bernstein – Book Review
What’s the matter with your stranger?
It’s a love story with a mystery at the heart of it, a paranormal mystery. Why does Ashley Easton speak French so well? Why can she ride a horse so well, after only a few weeks of riding? Who is the mysterious young man she meets at the dressage show, and why is he so handsome? A 3rd time to die by George A. Bernstein is both a love story and a mystery. It uses the concept of reincarnation as an interesting plot device.
Our first glimpse of Ashley Easton is of a woman rescuing a horse:
“Hey, stop it! Her hoarse cry, she hit the door with the side of the pitchfork. (Bernstein, p. 25)
The horse has always represented passion and desire in literature, and A 3rd Time to Die is no exception. Ashley’s new horse brings excitement and energy to her life and allows a new relationship to flourish. Ashley is revitalized and energized by saving the horse; it also highlights how his life has changed. Ashley is an endearing character who knows her own mind and is financially independent. She feels a lot of things, but takes a long time to act on those feelings: that’s Ashley Easton’s challenge. The reader sometimes feels a sense of frustration and is delighted that she is finally getting started.
Ashley’s lover, Craig Thornton is adorable and is everything Ashley needs and wants: he is the complete opposite of Ashley’s husband, Keith, and is charming, interesting, fascinated by Ashley, shares her interests and is considerate. Their relationship changes over time, and as they learn more about each other, their characters develop in surprising and captivating ways. A personal foul or two, however, might have helped make Craig more real.
Craig Thornton is also an interesting contrast to Ashley as his marriage is falling apart, but it’s not his fault: his wife is cheating on him. Bernstein thus draws interesting parallels and contrasts in the relationships. The two spouses, Keith and Toni, are not pleasant characters. Keith is a completely lost husband in the relationship: he ignores the children and takes a mistress. I would have preferred a little more shading to these spouses to add more real personality complexity: Keith doesn’t help with the kids, doesn’t like anything about his wife anymore, is mean in his other relationships; but has no redeeming quality. He’s a little too bad to be human. He seems to have no saving grace: I know Craig is lovely but Keith must have been fine at some point.
The novel examines relationships. The men and women of A 3rd time to die not just looking for someone but someone special. In the visionary past-life flashback of 1895, Charles sees Victoria as “passionate, sensual, and strong-willed” (Bernstein, p. 6). He loves her for these qualities, and Ashley and Craig are also looking for some very special traits.
Soulmates are important in this novel – people click and realize they are meant to be together. The Australian Psychological Society website states that: “New fields of psychology, particularly transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology, are taking seriously the holistic notion of human beings as comprising mind, body and soul. These realms propose that people are spiritual beings living a human life that extends beyond our mundane existence and skin-encapsulated ego-selves to include direct experience of the environment and the cosmos. They recognize the importance of integrating the spiritual with physical and mental reality, that spirituality is only part of the whole (Australian Psychological Society website. Transpersonal Psychology) The complications of soulmates and reincarnation that must be overcome make for a really interesting plot device in this novel. Whether Ashley and Craig will outlive their love, and who is against them and wishes them harm is a gripping question.
The final main character is psychologist Dr. Feldman. He’s an interesting character: he’s helpful, but indecisive, and his insights and eventual understandings carried the plot forward. Feldman is one of Joseph Campbell’s assistants. In Monomyth, Cambell explains that: “For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter on the hero’s journey is with a protective figure (often a small crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he deals with. What such a figure represents is the benign and protective power of fate. (Wikipedia. Monomyth) Feldman helps Ashley and Craig figure out what’s going on. This relationship is a satisfying aspect of the novel.
Ashley and Craig share a passion for horseback riding. As noted, the horse has always represented strong emotions and passionate desires in literature and this is also true in A 3rd time to die. Since DH Lawrence, the horse has been an essential representation of sexuality, freedom and power. Ashley’s horse in the novel represents all the freedom of her youth, the newfound sexuality that her unfulfilled marriage took away from her, and the ties to the past. A secondary meaning for the horse spirit animal is the balance between the instinctual and tamed parts of your personality. Ashley is therefore more real when she is with her horse, Injun, than when she is in her house. She feels more free, her conversation with Craig is more natural, but she also learns more about herself and the issues that concern her: “Damn, that’s where it started! The impression of driving through the woods and thoughts whispered in French. Nothing as intense as now. Why does fantasy only haunt her when she jumps on horseback? (Bernstein, p. 87). This is the symbolism of the nature/culture dichotomy.
The structure of the story is that of several parts with the first long section establishing the various different relationships. Ashley spends considerable time analyzing her (hopeless) marriage, before concluding that there is nothing to be done. This section was long and endless. I wondered why it had taken so long to come to a resolution on this point. Once the relationship with Craig was established and Bernstein managed to reunite the couple, the book moved forward at breakneck speed.
In the last section, the plots are drawn to a satisfying conclusion and the relationship and future of the lovers, as well as the situation of the nemesis are well resolved. A catastrophic final climax is well done and keeps the reader guessing until the last moment.
The role of money in the novel is interesting: Ashley is well off, thanks to her father’s money. She uses processes and systems and makes them work for her to improve her life, rather than just to make more money. It is a positive role for women.
A 3rd time to die is a love story with a twist, a paranormal mystery with an engaging heroine and some very satisfying surprises and plot developments. The characters develop in interesting ways over time and as the novel progresses. The relationships were interesting and well drawn. The plots are drawn to a satisfying conclusion, and the romantic relationship and the mystery of ominous fate are well resolved. The conclusion is striking and the response is unexpected and pleasantly surprising. I am happy to rate this book as 4 stars out of 5.
Australian Psychological Society website. Transpersonal Psychology http://www.groups.psychology.org.au/tpig/.
Bernstein, George A. A 3rd time to die:__ Palm Beach Gardens, Florida: GnD Publishing LLC, 2013.
Wikipedia. Monomyth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth.
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