Sunday, April 18, 2010


Pete Hamill

What would you do with your time if you were granted the gift of immortality - so long as you didn't leave New York? Cormac Samuel O'Connor grows up outside Belfast in the 1500s, the son of a Gael and a Jewess. Both his father and mother's religions are intolerable in their society, so they wear Protestant masks and keep their heads down. Even Cormac doesn't know who they are - or that his name is not Robert Carson. He happily learns to read, absorbs stories of the Hebrew people, learns to help his father at the blacksmith's forge, and grows to love his dog and their new horse.

But when the cruel Earl runs his mother down with a carriage, Cormac's father tells him the truth of who they are. Then he makes a wondrous sword and begins to teach Cormac the way of the Old Irish people, including that murder must be avenged and all the killer's heirs destroyed. So when the Earl kills Cormac's father, the teen follows him across the Atlantic to the village of New York. There he befriends a powerful African who grants him immortality, with the condition that he never leave Manhattan. And there the journey through history begins.

Cormac is involved in all sorts of uprisings, revolutions, and restorations. He sees fire raze the city, helps General Washington fight the Brits, manages to make it through the terrible decades with no fresh water, and is standing only a few blocks away when the World Trade Center towers are attacked. And through it all he seeks and kills decendents of the Earl.

Forever is an interesting story, but loses some in the telling. Hamill uses phrases and idioms that are anachronistic and threw me off. He skips huge chunks of time - most notably the entire twentieth century. We get no sense of how difficult it is for Cormac to adapt to the great changes during that time, how he managed through WWI and WWII, what he thinks of techonology. Just the late 1800s and then the twin towers, bam. And his personal story does not really resolve at the end, either. It's too bad, because the premise and pace of the book are excellent and it is generally worth the read.

No comments: