I just can’t seem break up with reading about New York and her history.
Since my last Bookworm waaaay back in August, I’ve read a bunch of books I neglected to write about (slacker!). I devoured Justin Cronin’s “The Twelve,” read the period-piece “War Brides” by Helen Bryan, was underwhelmed by Stephen King’s “11/22/63” and sailed the Titanic with Hazel Gaynor’s “The Girl Who Came Home.”
But most notably was how engrossed I became in Herbert Asbury’s “The Gangs of New York,” which the fella bought for me as our move to New York became more of a reality and less of a longtime pipe dream. I read it all during our moving process, on the train to work, and in bed at night. I became fascinated by the people, places and past of this great city that is now my home, and love discovering little reminders of the book from my wanderings about town.
Quite a few weeks ago, I was waiting for the fella in the Barnes and Noble in Union Square when I came across Pete Hamill’s “Forever,” the story of a young Irish man who sets out to the New World to avenge his father’s death in the 1700s. In aiding an African shaman, Cormac is given the gift of eternal life – so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan.
I was intrigued enough to add the book to the Things I Need to Read Stat list on my phone, and finally downloaded it to my Kindle just before the holidays.
Now that I finished it in record time, I daresay “Forever” just may be the book that unseated my longtime favorite book, Elizabeth Kostova’s “The Historian,” as My Favorite Books of All Time.”
I still feel uncomfortable saying that, actually, like I’m cheating on Vlad somehow.
The way Hamill weaves Cormac’s story is a revelation in writing. Hamill is such a painter of words and emotions that I feel less of a writer and more inspired as a writer at the exact same time.
From the moment you meet our young Irish lad to when he lands in New York after his harrowing sea travels, not too far from where I work in the Financial District and well into the future to the most devastating day this city has ever seen, I saw New York in a whole new light.
The book encompasses the wild wilderness that used to be where I live up in Harlem, streets and buildings I pass on a daily basis to the office and so much more to give me a glimpse into the City that Was Long Before Me. I sometimes feel like a little kid living here as I gaze out subway windows completely flabbergasted at just how those subways got built, how big the skyscrapers are or how so many historic places have managed to survive the test of time.
Cormac’s strength at living on while all his friends and lovers died off, his struggle with both his purpose for revenge and adapting to his ever-changing city while centuries-old memories remain fresh in his mind is a journey that won’t soon leave this reader’s mind.
This was my first reading of Pete Hamill, the first of what I suspect is going to be a long list, and the first of many, many revisits to “Forever.”