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3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,614 Ratings  ·  1,252 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 1,028 books — 930 voters
Forever by Pete HamillPresence by Perie WolfordThe Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom WolfeThe Alienist by Caleb CarrExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Best New York Novels
1st out of 61 books — 87 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 02, 2008 Kristen rated it it was amazing
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
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
Kim Williams
Aug 13, 2008 Kim Williams rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 09, 2010 Manday rated it did not like it
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
Sep 22, 2009 Cassy rated it it was ok
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
Sep 22, 2007 Meredith rated it it was ok
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
Dec 06, 2012 Christie rated it liked it
Shelves: ficiton
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
Oct 03, 2012 Barry rated it liked it
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
Apr 24, 2008 Kristen rated it it was ok
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
Libby Maccarthy
Dec 30, 2010 Libby Maccarthy rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing
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
Adrienne Vogt
Jan 23, 2012 Adrienne Vogt rated it really liked it
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
Apr 14, 2016 Laurie rated it it was amazing
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
Jessica Plante
Feb 22, 2016 Jessica Plante rated it liked it
While it suffered some unexpected pacing issues, this book was overall an enjoyable and thoughtful adventure.

I spent most of the first half of the novel confused and impatient for the plot to represent the blurb on the back cover-- immortality and NYC history-- which made trudging through Cormac's young life more tedious than it needed to be. I think this is a trouble moreso with the choice of wording on the back cover (creating inaccurate expectations) than a problem with the novel itself, as I
Jun 28, 2015 Lisa rated it it was ok
I started reading Pete Hamill’s critically acclaimed Forever when I was a senior in high school. For some reason I don’t remember, I stopped reading 150 pages in and ever since then I’ve been meaning to come back to it. Now that I’ve finally read this book I think I remember why it didn’t hold my teenage attention: one word to perfectly describe this book would be “uneven.”

Forever tells the story of a young boy in 18th century Ireland whose family follows the Old Religion of the ancient Celts. T
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
Aug 08, 2012 Melissa rated it liked it
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
Oct 10, 2014 Andie rated it really liked it
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
Aug 21, 2008 Tisha rated it it was amazing
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
Marina Fonseca
Jan 14, 2016 Marina Fonseca rated it really liked it
Wow. Just wow. I have never read anything like this and I am still trying to find the right words to talk about it.
First of all, I wanted to read this book because the TV show "Forever" got cancelled and I was looking for books with similar plots--a protagonist who lives forever without being a supernatural creature (not a vampire or a similar creature).
Let me start off by saying that the book is completely different from the show, genre wise, mood wise, and even plot wise. Sure Cormac O'Conno
Aug 14, 2007 Dan rated it did not like it
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.
Jun 05, 2016 Sally rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read by this author, who is best know for nonfiction writings about New York City. I selected this story because I was drawn to the concept of someone living forever in Manhattan, watching to city grow and change over the decades. The novel didn't quite live up to my expectations.

The main character, Cormac O'Connor, begins his life in Ireland in the 1700's where he learns of true Irish ways from his father (references to mysticism and the current conflict with form
Crystal Hagan
Apr 15, 2015 Crystal Hagan rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorites
Jun 24, 2015 Katryna rated it liked it
Shelves: reading-2015


When I first started this book, I was a little skeptical as to whether or not I would like it. As I kept reading, I was surprised to find that I actually really enjoyed this book. Hamill does a wonderful job of weaving together a beautiful, captivating story with a lot of philosophical questions in between. I found that the story itself is not necessarily what kept me coming back, it was the questions that were constantly being asked, things that really made me think, research,
Sep 17, 2014 Petra rated it liked it
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
Feb 19, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2013 Greg rated it liked it
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
Jun 26, 2012 Debby rated it really liked it
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
Sean Randall
Jul 21, 2012 Sean Randall rated it really liked it
"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
Apr 25, 2009 Keri rated it really liked it
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
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What's The Name o...: Man cursed with never dying [s] 4 35 Oct 08, 2014 02:55AM  
What's The Name o...: A forgotten book, please [s] 4 53 Jul 31, 2012 06:47AM  
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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
“I don't know what that means. To truly live."
"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.”
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