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.
"To Robert, such words seemed to be said that day for the first time in the long history of the world. You can't give up. You must try again. Important things to be said by a master for whom the most important of all the things in the shop was the anvil."
"The boy admonished himself for wanting everything to be a story. and now realized that some journeys were not stories. On some journeys, nothing really happened. You just kept taking steps. Once he had that in his brain, even arithmetic seemed easy."
"And heard Mary Morrigan speaking to him: If an unjust act is done in the family of a man or woman, it must be avenged. That is the rule... He rose then in a crouch, sheltered now by the seeping darkness. Thinking: I have my tasks now. Things I must do, or live, and die, in shame."
" 'I don't know what that means. To truly live.' Kongo paused again, his eyes wandering to the walls of the cave, to the blackness at the far end. 'To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day.' "