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Forever: A Novel Paperback – November, 2003

4 out of 5 stars 366 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This novel demands that the reader immediately suspend disbelief, but if this summons is heeded the reward will be a superior tale told by Hamill (Snow in August; A Drinking Life) in the cadence of the master storyteller. The year is 1741 and this is the story of Cormac O'Connor-"Irish, and a Jew"-who grows up in Ireland under English Protestant rule and is secretly schooled in Gaelic religion, myth and language. Seeking to avenge the murder of his father by the Earl of Warren, he follows the trail of the earl to New York City. On board ship, Cormac befriends African slave Kongo, and once in New York, the two join a rebellion against the British. After the rising is quelled, mobs take to the streets and Kongo is seized. Cormac saves Kongo from death, but is shot in the process. His recovery takes a miraculous turn when Kongo's dead priestess, Tomora, appears and grants Cormac eternal life and youth-so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan, thus the "Forever" of the title. What follows is a portrait of the "city of memory of which Cormac was the only citizen." Cormac fights in the American Revolution, sups with Boss Tweed (in a very sympathetic portrait) and lives into the New York of 2001. In that year he warily falls in love with Delfina, a streetwise Dominican ("That was the curse attached to the gift: You buried everyone you loved"), and comes into contact with a descendant of the Earl of Warren, the newspaper publisher Willie Warren. His love, his drive for revenge and his very desire to exist are fatefully challenged on the eve and the day of September 11. This rousing, ambitious work is beautifully woven around historical events and characters, but it is Hamill's passionate pursuit of justice and compassion-Celtic in foundation-that distinguishes this tale of New York City and its myriad peoples.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Cormac O'Connor arrived in New York in 1741-and he's still there, having been granted immortality as long as he remains on the island of Manhattan.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (November 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316735698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316735698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (366 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pete Hamill is a novelist, journalist, editor, and screenwriter. He is the author of 15 previous books including the bestselling novels Snow in August and Forever and the bestselling memoir A Drinking Life. He writes a column for the New York Daily News and lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Pete Hamill is a legend of New York, and FOREVER feels very much like his magnum opus. It's a wonderfully well thought-out and well researched history of New York City as told through the eyes of one fictional character.
Cormac O'Connor, a young 18th Century Irishman, through an accident in the street and a colision with a mystical destiny finds himself travelling to make a new life in America in the 1740s. Here, he becomes embroiled in a quest for justice, power and vengeance against the man who drove him from Ireland. After an encounter with a powerful shaman, Cormac finds himself granted a power that can be the greatest blessing or the darkest curse...immortality. the only condition is that he never leave Manhattan Island.
The following 250 years trace Cormac as he witnesses and becomes part of the development of NYC. Watching him through the slave revolt, the War of Independence, the War of 1812, the great New York fire, the nineteenth century boomtimes and the tragic events of September 11th, we see Cormac experience life's great emotions, love, loss, success and failure.
Combining a beautiful telling of Celtic mythology with a rich and vibrant civic history, Pete Hamill has created two truly remarkable characters...one is Cormac o'Connor and the other is the City of New York.
Read FOREVER and be glad that you did. It is certainly worth it.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel has a lot going for it. It's by Pete Hamill, a New York City columnist who understands the gritty realities of the city and whose writing is clear and to the point. It's therefore as much about the history of New York City as it is about the lead character. The plot is unique too. A young Irish man, Cormac O'Conner, comes to New York City in 1740 and is given eternal life - just as long as he doesn't leave the borough of Manhattan. Well, that's a book I can relate to. I live in Manhattan myself, and figure that even if I don't travel much, I do live in the best place in the world. And so I expected to embrace this book completely.
At 613 pages, this is a novel to sink into. I looked forward to picking it up again every time I had to put it down. There's a lot of action and colorful images and a true sense of New York City through the years. There's love and war and a quest for revenge. Obviously, the author did a lot of research. However, he tried just a little too hard to make Cormac politically correct at all times, fighting injustice, particularly against African Americans, throughout the book. And, just in case the reader forgets the fact that Cormac has eternal life, the author has him constantly reflecting on the history we have just seen him live through. This is all right up to a point, but it's unnecessarily repetitive and often bogs down the story.
The book is strongest at its beginning and ending sections. The beginning really gets into the life Cormac led in Ireland as well as his early years in New York. And the last section, which incorporates the recent 9/11 tragedy into the narrative, is full of tension, especially since I knew it was coming and kept wondering how the author would have the story play out.
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3 Comments 61 of 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Billed as a piece of "old-fashioned storytelling at a gallop" [cover quotation from the Washington Post], this swashbuckling tale certainly lives up to the description, although the gallop has a few wild leaps in it. Blacksmith's son Cormac O'Connor emigrates to New York from Ulster in 1740. There, he is given the magical gift of staying young forever, provided that he never leaves Manhattan, and that he "truly lives." Cormac is an attractive character: a fighter and a lover, friend of the dispossessed, and increasingly adept as a linguist, artist, and musician. But the real hero may be the city of New York, seen at various periods from the early days to the present. Hamill the historian is every bit as good as Hamill the storyteller.

I have remarked in other reviews on the tendency of several recent novelists to play around with the way their central characters experience time -- a sort of American Magic Realism. In Andrew Sean Greer's THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI, the hero lives his life backwards. In Audrey Niffenegger's THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, he skips around freely in time. In Salman Rushdie's THE MOOR'S LAST SIGH, he ages two years for every one. All three writers use their device both to generate suspense and to focus more clearly on the inner life of the character. But while the immortality granted to Hamill's hero makes a wonderful means of displaying the changing face of the city, it greatly reduces the reader's interest in the character himself.
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5 Comments 43 of 46 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
... this was not the book that I expected it to be. Every plot summary of this novel describes it as a history of New York City as experienced by a man who is granted immortality only so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan. Granted, that does happen, but first you have to slog through an annoying, practically-a-novel-in-and-of-itself three hundred pages of trifling backstory (taking up roughly half of the novel's length). That would have been fine if only it had been more interesting. Hamill seems to back himself into a corner with a curiously apathetic protagonist, Cormac O'Connor, who goes about tracking down the man responsible for the deaths of his parents with all of the passion of a man running errands on his day off. After arriving in Manhattan he wastes time doing ... nothing really. He learns a trade as a printer's apprentice, dabbles in a relationship that he doesn't seem too passionate about either, and agonizes about how he really kinda should be looking for his sworn enemy. Imagine Hamlet without any of Shakespeare's wit or dramatic urgency to redeem him and you have a pretty good idea of how frustrating Cormac is. The only thing he feels passionately about is fighting slavery, which ultimately - perhaps fatefully - leads to his gift / curse. That's another sticky point of this novel for me: there is no grey area when it comes to political issues such as slavery. All of the good guys possess an inexplicably modern perspective when it comes to social issues, while the villains are fierce racists who strive to use slavery to their own advantage. It's so simplistic, and not historically accurate.Read more ›
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