Forever

Pete Hamill

Starting in Ireland in the 1700s, Forever follows the ordinary-boy-turned-hero Cormac on a revenge mission across the Atlantic to Manhattan, which somehow manages to result in him being granted eternal life by an African shaman — just so long as he stays on Manhattan. The rest of the book skips ahead to significant points in the island’s history to show how he attempts to live his endless life as fully as possible. Hamill is a New York based journalist, so this epic story tied to Manhattan is full of historical details, but unlike Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, most of that research shows through at inopportune moments. There are times when characters seem to say facts in a way that doesn’t provide nuanced context but instead feels clunky — like a scene where Cormac’s printshop master randomly begins discussing typefaces.

I wanted to like this but found myself abruptly lose interest in the Boss Tweed era. I read some reviews online, and there were several people who felt the book got much better at that point. So I skimmed the ending and called it a day. I actually really liked the beginning in Ireland and Cormac’s early days in Manhattan where he participates in a slave rebellion and the American Revolution. But the gift of eternal life seemed to come from left field. And then there’s a whole part where his moves in with a fancy prostitute mostly because she has a bathtub. This is definitely an interesting concept but this exploration of it didn’t do enough for me.