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Everlasting Life in Manhattan

Pete Hamill's Forever

The aromas of wet grass, a warm hearth, and comforting pots of food fill the first few pages of Forever. Author Pete Hamill manages to convey a world rich with smell, evoking the reader's senses in a way most writers only dream of. This feat alone is commendable, but Forever offers much more than evocative prose and detailed description.

In a world that seems to have been twisted upside down, Forever is a modern fairy tale that helps us understand what it means to be an AmericanÍ and a New Yorker. Through the eyes of Cormac O'Conner, we see New York grow from a tiny colonial town to the metropolis that symbolizes the American spirit.

O'Conner, a young Irishman, who comes to New York in the 1700's in order to avenge the deaths of his parents, is thrown into a town full of civil unrest. There is talk of revolution and both the indentured servants and slaves are plotting revolt.

In the whirlwind of activity and riots surrounding the Slave Rebellion of 1741, he places his own life in peril to save an African slave he has befriended. The slave, a shaman, then blesses him with everlasting life - in the confines of Manhattan.

Left to witness each changing century, Cormac watches the birth and rise of New York and America. Baring witness to both the good and the ugly as a newspaperman, a construction worker, a painter and a lover, he becomes the ultimate New Yorker, reveling in the city's triumphs and mourning through each tragedy. But always Cormac writes and paints the events that define the city.

In addition to celebrating of what it means to be a New Yorker, and an American, Forever also confronts our dark history of injustice, racism, and persecution. Hamill is careful not to omit the cruel reality for generations of immigrants, the close mindedness of the rich and powerful, and our own prejudices.

Like in most good fairytales, reality is mixed with just a bit of supernatural. The extraordinary circumstances of Cormac's longevity are surrounded by the rich reality of life in each and every era. The heartaches of love, a passion for justice, and the loneliness that accompanies a forced, long life give this novel a rich heart that is so often missing from historical and supernatural tales.

Forever
by Pete Hamill
Little Brown & Company; ISBN: 0316341118
Hardcover, 320 pages (December 2002)

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