Key to Incarnation, by Peter Ferko
Incarnation is, deliberately, a bit of a puzzle. For readers who linger with books until their memory gets fuzzy, or those who read the last page of a book first, or who like having the solution to a crossword puzzle handy, the following cheat sheet notes the relationships and pivotal moments of the incarnations in the novel.
Chapter One: Ryoko and Joey
- Joseph Jones is married to Ryoko.
Lucy is married to Billy.
- Joseph describes the pivotal moment as a teenager when he met Ryoko. She nicknamed him Joey Coe, which he ultimately uses as his stage name in this, and similar incarnations.
- Krishna is a teenager in India. He describes the pivotal moment involving Kamalita when he must choose whether to defy his father. In the first incarnation described, he honors his father’s wishes, takes over the family business, and stays in India. He marries Kamalita.
- At the age of 65, Krishna meets an odd yogi who tells him that he is is to go to America. He slips on the steps beside the Ganges, and dies.
- In another incarnation, he is outraged at the pivotal moment with Kamalita and becomes estranged from his father. He moves to America, where he studies computer programming.
Chapter Two: Ryoko and Krishna
- In another incarnation, Joseph acts differently in the pivotal moment when he meets Ryoko. They do not become a couple, as they did in Chapter One.
- In still another incarnation, Joseph, as a young boy, is a pawn in the marital strife of his parents. His mother is having an affair with Rusty, who calls Joseph, “Jacquot.” She and Rusty move, with Jacquot, to France.
- Ryoko, as a young journalist, goes to France for a vacation — and to fish for a story. She meets Jacquot, who is now a film director. They have a romance. On returning to New York, Ryoko meets Krishna, who has studied computer science at RPI in New York. He has invented a TV commenting system Ryoko dubs “Veritage.” Ryoko and Krishna begin a romance. Jacquot, though geographically distant, hopes to rekindle his romance with Ryoko. She comes, with Krishna, to the screening of his film at Cannes. Ryoko remains with Krishna, and Jacquot meets Blanche Dubois.
- In another incarnation, Joseph’s father kept the young boy when Rusty took his mother to France. Joseph visited them annually, while studying art in New York. Joseph becomes interested in film and studies directing in Poland. He returns to New York and opens a film company with a partner, Silvio.
Chapter Three: The Birth of Veritage
- Now as adults, during the incarnation from Chapter One when Ryoko is married to Joey Coe, she interviews Krishna about the software that will become Veritage. She has an affair with Krishna.
- The Association of Television Broadcasters (ATB) helps establish the Veritage program with offices in New York.
- Jose Juarez becomes President of the United States. Veritage successfully fights his administration’s attempts at censorship.
- In another incarnation, Ryoko has never met Joseph (nor Jacquot), but has begun a romance with Krishna. ATB contacts Ryoko and helps establish the Veritage program with offices in Washington, D.C. Joseph, the film auteur, takes part in publicizing Veritage.
Chapter Four: Lucy
- Lucy is born to Maria Lubczyk; her father (known only by Maria) is Rusty.
- Billy takes over a mechanic shop and adds a café.
- Joseph, having met Lucy at a party the night before, is distracted by her phone call and dies in a car accident.
- Lucy gets a job in Billy’s café. They become a couple.
- Lucy, who longs to be a writer, becomes a Com-Star on Veritage. She meets Ryoko, who is with Krishna in this incarnation.
- In another incarnation, when Ryoko is married to Joey, Lucy is asked to appear as a guest interviewer, where she meets Joey. After the show, Ryoko and Joey become fast friends with Lucy and Billy.
- Krishna, who ended his affair with Ryoko for the sake of Veritage, hears from Kamalita, who plans to visit New York. After their meeting, at a challenging dinner with Ryoko, Joey, Lucy, and Billy, Krishna wonders if there’s a chance for them to have a relationship.
- Krishna doesn’t follow up with Kamalita, except to write checks to fund her research. He lives in a state of indecision and has meaningless affairs. A Hare Krishna yogi in Union Square tells him he’s going to move to India. Confused and distracted by the yogi’s prophecy, he falls down the subway stairs to his death.
- In another incarnation, Krishna marries Kamalita after their reconnection in New York.
- Secret Agent Man hacks Veritage to get Ryoko’s attention. He aims to use Veritage to help keep businesses more responsible. The Juarez administration tries to apprehend him and detains Ryoko for information about his identity and whereabouts. She encounters Agent Danforth, who escorts her to custody for not revealing her source. Secret Agent Man helps her.
Chapter Five: Joseph and Lucy
- Lucy is a film afficianado who wants to write screenplays.
- Joseph, having remained with his father when his mother leaves with Rusty, meets Lucy at a party. In the incarnation described in Chapter Four, he is killed in an accident when Lucy calls. In this incarnation, he ignores his phone, thereby avoiding the accident. He dates Lucy.
- After breaking up with Lucy, Joseph moves to Poland and studies directing. He meets a French actress, Julie, who convinces him to stay indefinitely in France with her.
- In another incarnation, Lucy fails to show up at the party and doesn’t meet Joseph there. Instead her friend Yana and Joseph have a one-night stand, which Yana mentions to Lucy.
- Several years later, Lucy sees the film Joseph made; he is now an auteur with a film company in Brooklyn. She contacts Joseph, and he invites her to send him a screenplay.
- Lucy and Joseph begin co-writing a screenplay, sparked by the many coincidences in their own relationship. They imagine a scenario in which lives play out in a different way each time there is a pivotal moment.
- After a writing session, they are at Billy’s café, where they encounter Ryoko and Krishna. Billy, who has been tuning up Krishna’s Jaguar, joins them. Lucy is attracted to him.
- In another incarnation, Lucy did not get up the nerve to contact Joseph, and instead writes on Veritage, where she is a Com-Star, while she drafts her screenplays. Jose Juarez, who in this incarnation remained a business man and did not run for President, is looking for a way to trump the bad ratings his network’s shows are receiving via Veritage. Juarez tries to bribe Lucy and other Com-Stars, including Secret Agent Man. Agent Danforth works with Secret Agent Man to solve the case.
- Lucy gets to meet Joseph in a promotional spot after the case. He encourages her, and offers to read her screenplays.
Chapter Six: The Wheel of Samsara
- A 60 year-old Ryoko, in this incarnation, is married to Joey, but is having an affair with Krishna, whom she met on a visit to India. There is no Veritage. She is encouraged by her editor to take time off, so she and Krishna drive toward upstate New York. She has learned that Jose Juarez, who was convicted of campaign finance abuse based on her testimony, is out of jail. Krishna and Ryoko are in a suspicious accident that proves fatal.
- In another incarnation, Ryoko is married to Krishna. Joseph and Blanche Dubois are acquaintances. Ryoko is killed in a suspicious automobile accident. Agent Danforth works with Secret Agent Man to solve the case. Joseph and Krishna plan a trip to India; Krishna contacts his childhood love interest, Kamalita.
- In an incarnation when Ryoko is married to Joey and Krishna helped her create Veritage (and they had an affair), Ryoko is killed by Juarez in retribution for her campaign finance testimony. Krishna and Joey bond over the loss; they decide to visit India.
- A year earlier, in an incarnation without Veritage, Ryoko and Joey go to India to make a documentary about Americans visiting India for yoga retreats. They meet Krishna, who is a hotel mogul. Krishna and Ryoko have an affair. Joey has an affair with an obsessive fan, Diana.
Chapter Seven: Krishnananda
- Lucy and Joseph, writing in their office in Brooklyn, are stuck in their script. They find hope in resolving the circular nature of their story when they come upon a picture in a book about reincarnation that implies that a yogi can transcend the cycle of incarnations.
- In India, 65 year-old Krishna hopes to deepen his connection with Ryoko by finding a Tantric yogi to bond them. Joey and his obsessed fan stumble upon such a yogi, who removes the obsession and gives Diana her life back. Joey meets with Ryoko and encourages her to explore the relationship with Krishna, perhaps by bringing him back to America.
- The yogi, Krishnananda, praises the wheel of samsara as Diana leaves to move ahead with the next generation.