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Forever

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  7,121 ratings  ·  1,109 reviews
This widely acclaimed bestseller is the magical, epic tale of an extraordinary man who arrives in New York in 1740 and remains ... forever. Through the eyes of Cormac O'Connor - granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan - we watch New York grow from a tiny settlement on the tip of an untamed wilderness to the thriving metropolis of today. And t...more
Paperback, 613 pages
Published November 3rd 2003 by Back Bay Books (first published October 1st 2002)
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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tales of New York City
26th out of 828 books — 758 voters
Forever by Pete HamillPresence by Perie WolfordThe Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom WolfeThe New York Trilogy by Paul AusterThe Alienist by Caleb Carr
Best New York Novels
1st out of 49 books — 73 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kristen
Dec 02, 2008 Kristen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Kristen by: Cindy
Shelves: high-brow
I generally look over other people's reviews to refresh myself before I add a book I read a long time ago. I was genuinely surprised to see how many people hated this book. It seems like people either got it and loved it (like me), or didn't get it and simply hated it.

Admittedly, the story is far-fetched. You must suspend disbelief in order to swallow the premise of the story, which is of an impoverished Irish boy doomed to live forever until he is able to avenge a wrong done to his family. If y...more
Gregory Baird
This was not the book that I expected it to be. Every plot summary of this novel describes it as a history of New York City as experienced by a man who is granted immortality only so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan. Granted, that does happen, but first you have to slog through an annoying, practically-a-novel-in-and-of-itself three hundred pages of trifling back-story. That would have been fine if only it had been more interesting. Hamill seems to back himself into a corner with...more
Meredith
Conceptually I liked this book, though it lost something in the execution. Exploring New York through the eyes of a single character *is* interesting, but in order to do it justice the book needed about 1,000 more pages (at least!). If this novel was a five book series--told more slowly--it would have worked much better.

I found the 9/11 chapter a bit forced. There was way too much foreshadowing. We know what's ahead of us and yet the Hamill can't resist mentioning low flying planes and looming t...more
Cassy
Part of my disappointment in Pete Hamill’s “Forever” is probably based on the fact that I had different expectations when I began reading. There was an extremely misleading quote on the back cover comparing the book favorably to "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter". I also expected the book to focus on New York City, which is does, but only well after a hundred pages based in Ireland.

Okay. The book did have its good points. I thought the concept was fantastic: immortal man witnesses the evolut...more
Kim Williams
Aug 13, 2008 Kim Williams rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all new yorkers
Shelves: current-works
This book had me from the first page. It starts in Ireland in the 1700s and takes us on a fantastic journey ending in New York in 2001. Through the protagonist's eyes we see the humble beginnings of New York City in its infancy and watch as it transforms over the centuries to the mighty metropolis it is today. Saying anything else would be spoiling. I certainly recommend this book if you are a New Yorker like me. It has been said that we are the most forgetful when it comes to our own history an...more
Christie
I have mixed feelings about this novel. The beginning one third of the story was very captivating and moving. I thought the author did a great job with character development and drawing the reader into an intriguing plot laced with bits of Irish folklore and Celtic Mythology. Somewhere around the middle, however, the story began to drag for me and became quite overrun with characters to follow. An account that takes place over more than two centuries, ending after the events of 9/11/01, lends it...more
Kristen
The idea of a first-person account of the whole history of Manhattan was really intriguing to me, so I was really excited to read this book, and assumed that the whole "you're immortal but you can't leave Manhattan" thing was just a weird plot device in order to make this first-person narrative make sense. Instead, the opposite seemed to be true: the history of Manhattan seemed to be just a setting for the whole strange spiritual-mythological side of the story.

That said, I loved the first 1/3 o...more
Manday
I am a bit offended by the current "number one" review that says people either "get" this book or hate it. Just because I hate it does not mean I did not get it.

A book that is about a man who lives forever is going to face challenges. It is either going to be epicly long or going to skim and jump without real depth, or some combination of the two. This book mostly jumped and skipped. This made it hard to become emotionally involved with the book. Because of this, I was planning to give the book...more
Jen
I've been going through a homesick sort of thing lately and this book was like a drug. It's historical fiction that charts the history of New York City from circa 1740 through 2001 as lived and experienced by one main character. (You'll have to suspend your disbelief regarding the necessary fantasy element of this because the book itself is wonderful).

The author, Pete Hamill, is impressive in his dedication to providing endless historically accurate details about the city he adores (this is esp...more
Andie
Magical realism arrives in New York City when Cormac O'Connor arrives in the late eighteenth century to avenge the deaths of his parents at the hand of the evil Earl of Warren. His quest brings him in contact with the black slave, Congo, who he befriends on the boat to America and who assists him in his mission and then bestows upon him the gift of immortality.

Through Cormac's eyes we see the history of New York City unfolding through the years as he must fight the Warrens through the succeeding...more
Barry
Caution: spoilers. All in all an uneven read. Fun, if you aren't critical, but lots to take issue with. The main character is given the gift of eternal life, with conditions. The first quarter of the book which takes place in Ireland, is better, though a bit stereotypical of Irish culture. The plot sounds fun, but in truth makes the main character less than completely sympathetic. Somehow he manages to be consumed by revenge, yet is bland and boring. The sections of the book are vignettes of dif...more
Adrienne Vogt
This book is truly a love letter to New York. Pete Hamill has taken a tantalizing idea — what would you do if you were granted immortality? — and envisions it through the eyes of an Irish teen, Cormac O'Connor.
The book's highest points shine when Hamill documents real people and places in Manhattan. The reader comes along for the journey of New York growing from a wild village into one of the greatest cities on Earth.
The disconnect occurs when Hamill describes the mythical happenings that take p...more
Tung
Jan 09, 2008 Tung added it
If I could give this book zero stars I would. Or negative even. This is the worst book I have read EVER without exaggeration. It ranks up there with Angela’s Ashes, God of Small Things, any John Grisham book, and any other book which makes you want to give up reading whenever you remember your experience reading them. The book is supposed to detail the life of an Irishman granted immortality who ends up in NYC in the mid 1700’s, and follows his life (and the life of NYC) from 1750 through 2001 (...more
Laurie
Jun 01, 2010 Laurie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NYC Enthusiasts, Defenders of Human Equality
Bear with me as I have a hard time reviewing books I really like. Forever has lots of great things going for it: beautifully evocative writing, especially about women, interesting history of Manhattan, constantly evolving plot so as to keep the reader interested and lots of emotion.

I'd probably say my favorite part was the bit about Ireland in the beginning of the book. I'd probably give it 4.5 stars, but this book definitely makes me want to read Hamill's other works.

Oh, and it really captures...more
Dan
Like Hamill from A Snow in August, but this novel was awful, i only finished it to see how he tied it together. The plot too ambitious, you can't pack the history of new york into a story of one man. Hamill can't properly end it and does an awful job of foreshadowing the 9/11 attacks. The towers seemed to be mention in every paragraph when the story shifts to the recent past, poorly alluding to what will come. I do not recommend this at all and wish i didn't waste money on it.
Petra
This is different than anything I've read before, I think.
The story starts out so good. There's Irish folklore, history, Celtic myths & magic. It blends so well and all the pieces work and fit together for a magical time.
Cormac comes to New York when he's 16 (sometime in the 1700s). He aids in a slave uprising, he's granted eternal life but with conditions: he cannot leave the island of New York (Manhattan) and he must "live to live". He continually strives for new interests in order to live...more
Nancy
Forever is a large story spanning centuries and all for one man.
After his mother is killed in Ireland by an English Earl, Cormac O'Connor's father forges a perfect sword to avenge her death. When his father is killed for his horse by the same Earl, Cormac is charged with killing the Earl unto the last generation. How that all comes about is the premise for this story covering space and time and myth.

Cormac cannot leave Manhattan without risking the loss of the Outerworld and being unable to a...more
Greg
Forever began so wonderfully for me. It was engaging, touching, and completely drew me in. I quickly grew to love the main character, his family, his horse and his dog. I even shed tears when his mother died. But around the fourth or fifth chapter, things started to change. The story began to thin out and jumped around a bit. It would jump ahead decades only to have the narrator look back at the time that was skipped, often missing the chance to explore anything in depth. The narrator describes...more
Libby Maccarthy
Dec 30, 2010 Libby Maccarthy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Libby by: My mother
This has to be one of my favorite books. While long, the book is well a written and captivating piece of historical fiction (although some of the descriptive bits can be a bit much). While I really enjoyed the story's plot, my favorite aspect of the book was the description of the changes in New York over generations - from the atmosphere of the streets right to the putrid smells that characterized New York for decades.

"This widely acclaimed bestseller is the magical, epic tale of an extraordin...more
Debby
Forever is the lifelong story of an truly Irish young man, Cormac O'Connor, who flees Ireland for New York in 1740 to avenge the murders of his parents; fueled by his father's words and his father's sword. While onboard ship, Cormac gives aid to slaves being transported from Africa on the same ship.

Upon arrival in Manhattan, Cormac has a single-eyed determination to kill tha Earl of Warren, the man who killed his parents. During some supernatural circumstances Cormac receives the gift of immorta...more
Sean Randall
"Have I seen my last snowfall? My last spring? And have I walked for the final time through a summer afternoon?"

This certainly isn't my usual sort of book, but I really got into it. The opening chapters were beautiful in their descriptive detail, which really pulled me in so that I actually cared for Cormac and his future.

The tribalism of the Babalawo and that whole ethos is alien to me, but it wasn't really overdone, which helped me keep my focus on the story. I particularly liked how the view...more
Keri
The premise of this book is that Cormac will be immortal until he completes his "task" (spoiler-free reference) and finds the right woman, at which point he will be able to pass to the Otherworld and meet his family. Oh yeah, and he can't leave Manhattan Island or he will die and go to hell. Cormac lives several hundred years during the timeframe of the book. Cormac is not the only lead in this story, however; the city of Manhattan is the other. While Cormac grows and deals with the changing tim...more
Grace Herndon
This book and I have a love/hate relationship. Forever took me much longer to read than books I have read in the past. I was surprised at first when I started to read this book because the story did not start as I had expected it to. From the back cover of the book I could tell that this book had an element of fantasy and that it took place in New York city. However, the book starts off in Ireland (around the 1700s I believe) and with out prior knowledge I would have considered this book to be h...more
Melissa
I picked this one up because I’d heard it was a great way to learn about the history of New York City. As the back cover summary explains, one man is offered immortality with the condition that he can never leave the island of Manhattan. The problem is, that twist is given away before you open the book and yet 200 pages into the story it still hasn’t even happened. So you find yourself just waiting for it, instead of allowing yourself to be taken in by the rest of the tale.

The first 100 pages or...more
Karen
I liked this book. It kept me engaged throughout its 400-or-so pages. And I brushed up on some of my Revolutionary War history, as part of it takes place in colonial New York. If you have the last name "Warren" you'll find this book interesting in another way, as that family expands throughout the pages of the book, spawning more and more possible antagonists to the protagonist.

I got the feeling, however, that the author got a little bored with the slow progression of history but knew what timef...more
Raymond
Mar 21, 2012 Raymond added it
Recommends it for: Anyone with even a slight interest in New York City
Recommended to Raymond by: Who do you think?
Shelves: fiction
What a love affair with New York Mr. Hamill has! A gratifying read for sure. The city's vibrancy leaps off the pages. Getting to spend much of my time wandering around in many of the areas the story takes place has heightened my pleasure in living and working in this fine town. Hamill pulls no punches though. Manhattan is and has been witness to much personal success and futility, much beauty and horrid ugliness. It's all here. All woven quite nicely together through the eyes of Cormac O'Connor....more
Joy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gene
The story covered a 1700 to 2001 time frame with the main character, Cormac, living during that entire time (being given unending longevity by an African, Konga), the majority of it in New York City after arriving from Ireland in the 1700s. Makes the reader contemplate how they would react/handle the gift/curse (depending on how you look at it) of living forever, watching, of course, everyone around you living just a normal lifespan, etc. Found the history aspect of the book very interesting. Pe...more
Beth Anne
i truly truly loved this book. i bought it a while ago (about a year ago) and lent it to brent to read. finally i got to it, and finished it in a matter of three days. obviously, i found it very captivating.

the story is just well told...an Irish immigrant and his travels through time, as he lives his immortal life on the island of Manhattan.

each section in the book tells a different story from a different time period (the countess, being my favorite story)...and each story is told with depth and...more
Tisha
Aug 21, 2008 Tisha rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tisha by: Katie
I really appreciate this book. I wasn't necessarily expecting to. A co-worker recommended it saying it was one of her top 3 favorite books, so i decided to read.

This book takes you through the history of Manhattan, beginning in the 18th century to current day following 9/11, from the point of view of Irish immigrant Cormac, who travels to America to avenge his fathers death. Spanning 300 years starting with the 1700's Irish Catholic/Protestant conflict, the "Old Religion" and his journey to Ame...more
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What's The Name o...: A forgotten book, please [s] 4 51 Jul 30, 2012 10:47PM  
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Pete Hamill is a novelist, essayist and journalist whose career has endured for more than forty years. He was born in Brooklyn, N. Y. in 1935, the oldest of seven children of immigrants from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended Catholic schools as a child. He left school at 16 to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a sheetmetal worker, and then went on to the United States Navy. While serving in t...more
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“Human beings want to know too much abut each other, and that's why there are so many lies.” 8 likes
“To love women. To pleasure them, to make them laugh. To be foolish for them. To protect them. To respect them. To listen to them. They are life-givers. To live is to love them.” 4 likes
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