Do you believe in reincarnation? Past lives? A regular, hard-working, church-going couple, Andrea and Bruce Leininger were faced with these very questions when their two-year-old son, James, began have unremitting nightmares and shouting the words, “Plane on fire! Little man can’t get out!”

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot is the chronicle of their odyssey as this everyday family struggled to make sense of their son’s constant, shrieking nightmares, out-of-context words and obsession with planes. The book details their persistent and tenacious exploration which leads to far-reaching, soul-satisfying results.

The Leininger family relocates to Louisiana for Bruce’s new job, another move in a string of job-related hops. Andrea determinedly works on their house to make it a home for their happy threesome. She is more than ready to put down permanent roots. Their only child, and their pride and joy, begins having nightmares.

Initially, the nightmares are attributed to the move and, then considered to be a stage, not so uncommon with small children. But the nightmares are loud, disruptive and disturbing. Andrea shares her concern with “the panel,” her mother and sisters who offer advice and solace. Her mother refers Andrea to the book, Children’s Past Lives by researcher, Carol Bowman, who confirms that James’ nightmares are, in fact, James reliving a past life experience.

With suggestions from Bowman, the frequency of the nightmares decreases. Conversely, James begins talking more about his past life. He mentions an individual’s name, a specific aircraft, and the name of his ship, the Natoma Bay. At three years of age, James begins to draw, in accurate detail, sea and air battles with aircraft details matching those used during WWII. By four years old, James constructs his own cockpit and regularly enacts going through the pre-flight check-list. During a visit to a local air show, one of the Blue Angels asks James what he wants to be when he grows up, James responds, “I want to be an F-18 Super Hornet Pilot and then a Blue Angel pilot – the slot pilot.”

With every clue that young James offers, both parents look at one another wide-eyed wondering how their little boy could know what he knows. James’ father scours the Internet and finds, time after time, that his son’s WWII aviation knowledge is accurate.

Bruce Leininger is a tormented man; he is looking to understand. Everything that his son’s actions suggest, i.e. a past life, is antithetical to Bruce’s hard-rooted Christian religion. For Bruce, there is no such thing as reincarnation; this concept is in direct contrast to the teachings of his faith. Andrea is more accepting of this possibility, but she is equally curious and wants to connect all the dots.

Both parents are disciplined, type-A individuals. With their characteristic drive and focus, they take a dive into the deep end of the pool and dedicate their time and energy to putting the pieces of James’ puzzle together.

There is a 20/20 interview. They are endless Internet searches that become the yellow brick road that leads to USS Natoma Bay reunions, information about crew mates, connection with families who lost loved ones, and young James Leininger attending a reunion and connecting with friends and family who knew him as James M. Huston, Jr., a WWII fighter pilot.

There is more exposure with a Good Morning America interview, which leads to the Leiningers travelling to Japan and visiting the spot where James Huston was shot down. James’ journey comes full circle.

This is a comfortable book on what some might consider an uncomfortable subject. It almost feels like you are sitting at the kitchen table hearing the family’s experiences. And I could well imagine each of them running to another room to bring in a naval listing, a drawing or a photo to make everything so clear.

It is amazing that young James remembered such specifics; it is even more amazing that the veracity of James’ past life could be proven in extreme detail and through endless research undertaken by his parents.

This book not only opens up doors and windows on a topic that is often received with an eye roll; it also tells a tale of healing within a family, across generations, among countries, and with seeming strangers. On top of which, it is a good story that will leave you with a full heart and the knowledge that the soul remembers.

Author's Bio: 

Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., is a psychologist, teacher, and channel who likes looking at life with the big viewfinder. Her website is © Copyright 2009 by Adele Ryan McDowell.