Pete Hamill’s, “Forever” is a very long novel, highly ambitious, at times brilliant, and enchanting, and at at times, sadly spends too much time on the smell of feces and urine in the 1700 and 1800’s in New York City.
Few major writers, have known and understood the city of New York better than Mr. Hamill. Few have written more accurately and passionately about the city.
Yet, it is the first hundred pages or so of this novel that I found the most spellbinding and they take place in Northern Ireland during the middle of the 1700’s when the British have literally conquered this part of the country and have made the practice of all religions, besides the Protestant religion, unlawful. Only the Protestants can own land, find work, and truly live in freedom.
Cormac O’Connor, the hero of this novel, sees his mother run over and killed by the Earl of Warren and later witnesses the murder of his father by one of the Earl’s men. His father practices the religion of “Irish,” that is deep in folklore and mysticism. Cormac, at the age of sixteen, is given the task of revenging his father’s death by not only killing the Earl but killing the last of his line.
This takes him to New York City, where he is granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan. He plays a role in the Revolutionary War when General Washington invades the city at the very beginning of the war. He lives through the great fire of 1835 that destroyed most of Manhattan, he hangs out with Boss Bill Tweed, and is a witness to the bombing of the World Trade Center. Throughout this time, he keeps track of all the Earl’s descendents who travel to the city and take up residence. He is still bound by the oath of revenge, and cannot pass into the ‘Otherworld,’ where his mother, father, friends, and relatives now reside after dying unless he continues to revenge his father’s murder to the end of his time.
Mr. Hamill’s novel is as much about the history of the city, as it is about the oath of revenge. It is the people he befriends and the lovers he takes that give this novel a flavor as rich as the city itself. I highly recommend