Underwhelming “Rebirth” is Poor Paulo Coehlo Imitation

Kamal Ravikant preaches lofty ideals, but his writing stunts message

Even though it’s typically not my literary genre of choice, I was excited to receive an ARC of Rebirth: A Fable of Love, Forgiveness, and Following Your Heart by Kamal Ravikant. Having been likened to Paulo Coehlo, of whom I am a fan, I thought I’d enjoy the novel. I kept it in a prominent place on my bookshelf for three months before I could finally sit down with it.


Just like my expectations, the prologue held plenty of promise. I thought I’d found a kindred spirit in the main character of Amit, a twenty-something med student unsure of his life’s path and taken with wanderlust. I could feel the distant uncertainty of how to react as Amit scattered his estranged father’s ashes into the Ganges. And I understood, in the absence of any other purpose, the inevitability of following an Italian tourist’s suggestion to hike the Camino de Santiago because “everyone finds themselves on the Camino.” A 550-mile pilgrimage across Spain would certainly offer plenty of time to examine one’s flaws and correct them. Unfortunately for Rebirth, the pilgrimage also lays bare all its flaws.

Unlike Coehlo, whose novels Rebith is likened to, Ravikant does not have the ability to produce a fable. During the fourth day on the trail, Amit narrates, “I feel like Don Quixote, sans Sancho, horse, or lance.” It’s exactly how Ravikant’s novel reads: like Don Quixote reaching for his lofty idealism minus the tools that even allow him the opportunity. The prose has no nuance—the prologue’s narration I’d interpreted as distant uncertainty turns out to actually just be status quo. The dialogue is stilted and unnatural. All conflict, even the core conflict of Amit’s father dying, is glossed over so that nothing resonates. It’s just not possible to write a “timeless” fable if all the pieces don’t fit.

Still, Ravikant tries. To his credit, he understands that the relationships Amit forms on the Camino are the most important part of the story. He gives us Loïc, a friendly Frenchman, who describes the “magic, mon ami” of jumping without knowing because “then your wings grow.” There is also Kat, whose stories and soft, albeit talkative, presence are the best elements of the novel. She teaches Amit how to answer the question of “what next?” after sprouting wings, because it’s not just about staying alive, but about living.

However, even though each pilgrim’s story relates to Amit, Ravikant never takes the time to give the reader proper insight into Amit’s processing of the information. He should be the story’s grounding, allowing readers to see themselves in him. Instead, each new pilgrim’s story reads less like a confluence of ideas and more like a series of parables. Couple that with how every pilgrim seems to speak only in inspirational quotes, and suddenly Rebirth feels more like a sermon than a novel. It lacks subtlety, tediously contemplating symbols that don’t matter (i.e. a lonely ham leg) and shamelessly promoting anything that was originally clever (i.e. the presence of wind during Amit’s revelations). There’s no room left for the reader’s interpretation.

I had wanted this book to be better. I was able to find, perhaps in desperation, a few gems such as Kat hidden in its pages and an overall message of loving life and one another that I can support, but they weren’t enough to salvage a story that was a poor attempt to imitate Paulo Coehlo’s fables and, at best, an underwhelming novel.


Writing (and Living) for That “Ah-ha!” Moment

This semester I am enrolled in two writing workshops. When I mentioned this to one of my professors, he asked me, “Are you nuts?” It was far too much reading and writing. I would never be able to keep up with my schoolwork.

I still wanted to do it.

For me, writing is much more than a job or a grade – it’s my passion. I write because I want to and not because somebody tells me I have to. Of course, having a deadline is fairly persuasive in getting me to want to write, but that’s beside the point.

Writing is important to me because, in a lot of ways, writing is like life. It’s life, only it’s told through a specific lens. One book’s lens may be focused on Harry Potter while another book’s lens may be focused on Mr. Bucklesby who goes for a walk through Central Park every Tuesday with his wife. Books, and the writing within those books, show us truths about our lives that we sometimes forget or don’t even know.

It is my job and the job of fellow writers to tell those truths. The only trouble is that sometimes we writers don’t always get it right.

That’s why my writing workshops are so important to me. I can write what I see to be the truth and then have twenty fellow writers point out flaws in my interpretation of the truth  and suggest better ways to tell that truth. I will make mistakes, but I have people to help me along and reach my goal.

The other day in my writing workshop a fellow writer was having trouble depicting the struggle between the father of a son that drowned and the boy who was responsible for the son’s death. All of us around the table were bouncing suggestions off one another until a suggestion of how the two would interact and what they would say suddenly made all twenty of us pause and say, “Ohhh!”

Such agreement amongst writers is legendary. But that’s what we are working for: that “Ah-ha!” moment.

Life is the same. Nobody knows the meaning of life (unless you consider the answer to be 42). We have to make choices that we think are best and, more often than we’d like, we make mistakes. Of course, there are almost always people looking to help us out and point us in the right direction again. We can only hope that we’ll finally zero in on the answer to a perfect life. Then, when we have the answer, we can all pause, sit back, and say, “Ohhh!”