Forever by Pete Hamill

foreverForever is a historical novel that traces the life of the narrator, Cormac O’Connor, from the 1700s outside of Belfast, Ireland to the fall of the Twin Towers in New York City. It’s beautifully written – descriptive and vivid in a way that you can feel, see, smell, touch, and taste New York City. And Hamill weaves history and fiction in such a wonderful way that I immediately devoured the first 400 pages of this 600+ plus novel.

But then there’s a break in the flow as Cormac’s story jumps from American Revolution to the days of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. And then – only a mere forty pages later – Cormac is pointing out the absurdity of the Y2K anxieties. The break stuck with me even after the story returned to it’s previous perfect flow and I was unable to let it do.

I loved how Hamill presented New York as a living, breathing person rather than a place, especially since there is now where in the world like Manhattan. The first one hundred pages are about Ireland and Cormac’s Celtic roots, but Hamill intertwines the Irish into New York in the same manner as they did as immigrants – slowly, but surely.

Living forever means Cormac interacts with so many historical and famous characters – Washington, Boss Tweed – and throws himself into famous moments in New York City and American history – the American Revolution, the race between Hearst and Pulitzer, 9/11. And, as a forewarning, Cormac living forever also means he spends most of his life obsessing over and avenging his parents’ deaths.

I was somewhat disappointed with the ending, but I don’t think it completely detracts from the novel like the time jump does. Ignore the last eleven sentences of Forever and you’ll possibly avoid the disappointment.

Still, Forever is a vivid, unique story that portrays an extremely unique city in a spectacular way. It’s not without it’s disappointments but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Hamill, Pete. Forever. New York: Back Bay Books, 2003. Originally published 2002. Print. 613 pgs. ISBN: 0316735698. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Back Bay Books. Retrieved: November 17, 2011.


  1. I read this one last year and loved it. However, I totally agree that the time jump, skipping over much of the best bits of the 20th century, was kind of disappointing.


  2. Bought this one the last time I was in NY. Was all excited about it, but then saw a not-so-good review, saying that Cormac only actually arrives in NY after 100 pages or so and that the pace was really slow. You have me hope again 🙂


  3. I think Alex definitely read my review. I was kinda disappointed with this one, but maybe my expectations were too high. I did love the descriptions of New York, that was my favorite part. The jumping around did lose me a bit and the end was sort of the last straw for me. Your review is great though!


  4. This one was too much for me (as I assume you know from looking at my review!) I got lost somewhere before the halfway point. I did like the rich descriptions, but there wasn’t enough character for me, it was hard to hold onto a thread of story.


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