Wow—this book was quite the ride.
Many good things have already been posted about the topics of spirits, bodies, and duality. Another topic that stood out to me as relevant in this story was that of family identity. The theme began without delay, since the story is based on members of two families recently combined into one. Several of the members, particularly Cathy, struggle a bit with these changes and what they bring to their individual and family identities.
Then there’s the family tree scenes. Cathy gets to climb her own—literally (or, at least, as literally as things seemed to get in this book) and learns a bit about her family’s past. But most fascinating to me was the distinct and ultimately crucial power that Cathy gets from her ancestry. She couldn’t have won without it. Her sudden and inexplicable ability to read and speak a new language betray a stronger and deeper connection to her ancestors than most modern readers would buy into. I’d’ve loved to hear some more explanation on this myself. But growing up in the LDS faith and a family who talks pretty frequently and intimately about our heritage lowered my level of skepticism quite a bit. I assume Perkins anticipated this reaction from her LDS readers. I’d love to know what non-LDS readers thought of it. And how Perkins hoped they’d think of it.
The theme of family also assuaged my anger and disappointment at the ending of the story. I was initially pretty ticked off that Blake (the real one) still died after all that trouble. But when Perkins reminded me—us—that Blake’s goal from the very beginning had been to be with his mother? How could I hate that? In hindsight, Perkins did a great job weaving the theme of family and ancestry through the book, and (maybe more importantly) made it clear how vital these are to us all.