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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  12,309 ratings  ·  1,654 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. A
Paperback, 613 pages
Published November 3rd 2003 by Back Bay Books (first published October 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,309 ratings  ·  1,654 reviews

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Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Lars Jerlach
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Forever is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I closed the book with a feeling of regret knowing that I wouldn't read a story this good for quite some time. It's a beautifully written and haunting story that is deeply rooted in the heart of New York, but one that fundamentally speaks about the mysteries of human condition and the things we feel but cannot fully articulate.
This remarkable hybrid is an absorbing, satisfying read and the story stays with you a long time after y
May 28, 2009 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, 2007 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
Joseph Sciuto
Jun 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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 Irelan
Kim Williams
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2009 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
Bobby Jett
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A true masterpiece of fiction. Rarely does a book reach this level of storytelling, at least in my experience. I can count on one hand books that i have read that i regard as masterpieces. This is one of those books that I wish would go on for another 600 pages: literally forever. Cormac is someone I will never forget. It will take me many days to digest all that I encountered in these pages, and I think i am forever changed for having read this. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and a ...more
Dec 21, 2007 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
Dec 06, 2012 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
Jun 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
It took a lot to get even 5 chapters into this. It was mind numbingly slow.
Oct 03, 2012 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
Aug 02, 2007 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. ...more
Jan 21, 2022 rated it liked it
I greatly enjoyed the first 400ish pages of this book, but after that it felt like the author had told his story, but still wrote another 200ish pages. The end was far less creative and interesting.
Sep 01, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new-york, ireland
Whew, this was a good one. Been reading stuff by various storytellers from New York: A Documentary Film, among them was Pete Hamill. Pete's turf is New York history and working class city life, particularly the experience of Irish immigrants.

This story ends up being much more than billed. Yup, it's the history of the city from the perspective of a nigh-immortal, but its trick is presenting Cormac's experience in a way that gives you a palpable feel of how history influences the present. It start
Jan 09, 2008 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
Adrienne Vogt
Jan 23, 2012 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
How long does it take to find your true love? Is one lifetime enough? What do you do when you do find it? How do you answer life's challenges and choices?
Cormac O'Conner is born in northern Ireland in 1723, loved and cherished by his parents, happy with his parents, dog, horse and home. His father is a blacksmith and makes a very special sword. When he is nine he loses his mother, when he is sixteen he loses his father. The Earl of Warren, who lives in Belfast near them, is indirectly responsibl
Jun 08, 2009 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
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
Jun 11, 2010 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
Megan Bogert
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book covers over 200 years of history from the perspective of one Irishman. It was a 5 star book until the final hundred pages. I knew what was coming at the end and just. wanted. to. get. there.

If you're interested in Irish/American history from the 1700s-2000s, I highly suggest this read!
Jan 17, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Cormac heard that glorious word for the first time in the 1850s, and it came to epitomize for him all of the New York’s touch skepticism. It had much greater weight than the word horseshit. Horseshit was flaky and without substance; it dried in the sun and was blown away in a high wind. Preachers were masters of horseshit. But bullshit was heavier, filled with a crude truth, a kind of black cement. The voters knew the difference and they appreciated bullshit when practiced by a master.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Surprised at how much I wound up enjoying this. I spent the first 150 pages saying, "When are they are going to get to New York?" and "Pre-Christian Celtic father, Jewish mother, in a Protestant bit of Northern Ireland in 1700s??" . Finally, got into the book enough to suspend belief and accept a character who helps an African shaman, captured as a slave, and is given the gift to live forever so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan. Maybe this is magic realism?
Anyway, it is interest
Aug 08, 2012 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
Jun 22, 2015 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
Apr 07, 2013 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
Don LeClair
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Initially I came at this book thinking it might have a James Michener like view of the history of a place . But it clearly was not long enought for that kind of treatment.

Instead it was an interesting view of the the very very long life of Cormac O'Connor over the course three centuries. After growing up in 18th century Ireland he comes to New York, as as per the title can live forever - as long as he does not leave New York city.

Eventually I realized that this was really a story about growing
Libby MacCarthy
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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Play Book Tag: Forever; 4 Stars 3 21 Jun 21, 2018 05:27AM  
What's the Name o...: Man cursed with never dying [s] 4 42 Oct 07, 2014 06:55PM  
What's the Name o...: A forgotten book, please [s] 4 61 Jul 30, 2012 10:47PM  

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Pete Hamill was 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 ...more

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“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.”
“Human beings want to know too much abut each other, and that's why there are so many lies.” 10 likes
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