Recently, popular YA book blogger Nicole Brinkley put onto the Twitterverse that she would be doing a reread of some of her favorite books during the month of June. She encouraged bibliophiles everywhere, myself included, to join her.
During the month of June, I revisited three of my favorite works: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, “The Devil in the White City” by popular historian Erik Larson, and “Forever” by Pete Hamill. These works are incredible, and like the many people who participated in June Rereads, only fell more deeply in love.
“Forever” by Pete Hamill was by far my favorite book that I revisited. The premise was truly delightful, the characters easily likeable, and the premise, while daunting, was executed very well.
The novel follows a young boy, Cormac O’Connor, as he transforms from a young, Irish boy to a seasoned Celt. As per Celtic traditions, Cormac must track down his father’s killer to the end of the line in order to avenge his father’s death. He follows the killer, the Earl of Warren, to the island of Manhattan, where he meets and befriends several African slaves. He plays a role in their uprising. To repay Cormac for his loyalty and friendship, the Africans heal a wounded Cormac and give him the gift of immortality. So long as Cormac never leaves the island of Manhattan, he will never age. If he does leave, it will be seen as suicide and he will not be able to be reunited with his mother and father in the afterlife.
With this new gift of immortality, Cormac essentially watches New York transform from a dirty, poor trading port to one of the greatest cities the world has ever known. It was truly incredible to read. Hamill’s prose is brilliant and he seamlessly weaves in big name characters such as Boss Tweed and George Washington into his story. The book focuses on time periods during the Revolutionary War, the Gilded Age, and New York at the time of 9/11. All of these time periods were very well-written, but I feel like there was a lot missing. Hamill, for whatever reason, did not put in any story that took place during either of the World Wars, the Roaring Twenties, or the Great Depression. These pieces of history are especially important to New York, and I feel like the novel was disserviced by leaving these critical decades out. On the other hand, I am grateful that Hamill left out these moments. The novel is over 600 pages long, and adding these decades would stretch it out even further.
The size of the book would be a deterrent, make no mistake, but once the reader gets past the daunting amount the book is a breeze. The main motifs of the novel are the way that violence surrounds us – a particularly good reminder during these troubled months-, what it means to love, and what it means to live. In order to live a good life on the island of Manhattan, Cormac must learn new things, have new experiences, keep his mind sharp, form human connection, and eventually love deeply. The message was repeated throughout the entire book, and it was a beautiful reminder.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Irish culture, historical fiction, cheeky Irish maids who take no crap, and above all a really good story.
And that’s the last of my June Rereads? Has anyone else participated? Sound off in the comments below or talk to us on our Twitter! Let’s talk books!