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Eternal Life

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  3,677 ratings  ·  603 reviews
Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. Her recent troubles—widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son—are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, and hundreds of children. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she’s tried ev ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 8th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 23rd 2018)
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,677 ratings  ·  603 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition by Elizabeth Rogers! The narrator is excellent- and this book is extraordinary. Beautiful writing- totally fascinating.

“The only way this will end is if I die”.

Rachel Azaria can’t die. We take a two thousand year voyage with Rachel — she gives up her death in order to save her first son. Rachel made a vow to save her child in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem— and now that she has lived - FOR 2000 YEARS, she has buried thousands of children, grandchildren, and husbands.
She wants
Eternal Life had such a fascinating premise; a young woman named Rachel makes an eternal bond with her baby daddy, Elazar, to save their only son by forfeiting their deaths so their child may live. As a result, Rachel and Elazar can never die.

Great idea, right?

I was expecting, oh...I don't know...old world magic, immortality, recaps of the amazing and adventurous lives Rachel has lived to tell.

But that wasn't it at all.

** Spoilers ahead **

When we meet Rachel 2,000 years later, she is in the
Erika Dreifus
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I were in a book club specifically to talk about this book.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I very rarely write reviews on GR anymore, but this book struck me in such a way that it felt strangely familiar yet very new. Maybe because of the Jewish history woven throughout the book, maybe because of the themes of death and rebirth and parenting that seem to be so prevalent in my life lately; I don’t know. But I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to hear all of Rachel’s stories, all about all of her children, and what lies in store for her. I haven’t read a book like this in a while, and I a ...more
Jan Rice
Everything and everyone blew through the world, leaves carried on wind.

When you live like we do, everything seems connected to everything else, everything reminds you of something.

As this novel gets underway, we're given to understand that there's something unusual about the protagonist, Rachel, a great-grandmother at 84 years old, something fantastical about her relationship to life and death. That much we know from the title and from reviews we may have read. But just what's going on--and wh
Eternal Life, by Dara Horn, Jan. 2018
Horn’s latest novel, Eternal Life, follows Rachel, daughter of Azaria, through more 2,000 years of her many lives. Teenage Rachel and her true love, Elazar make a sacred vow to save the life of their first born son, Yochaman, and in doing so, sacrifice their own death for him. Eternal life for Rachel comes with a very high price, and the suffering of losing her children and loved ones over and over again is almost more than she can bear. This is a powerful bo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shannon Kirk
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(UPDATE 3/1): LOOK. YOU JUST NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. I continue to be obsessed with this perfect book. I've already purchased it for three people. I only purchase books for other people if the book IS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY.

(UPDATE 2/27): Fuller review to come shortly, keeping mid-range review below. For now, I need to report that I’m having a full-on love affair with this book I’m so obsessed with it. Was going to lend it to a friend when done, but I have now underlined things and fol
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----

So, first things first, the cover illustration on the edition I received was just fantastic. It definitely would have made me pause if I'd been out browsing. I'd for sure have stopped and picked it up to see what it was about, so kudos on that.

Sadly, that's pretty much where the fun ends. I was disappointed by this, b/c it was a great idea. Living forever without a being a vampire, well that's interesting enough. The story s

Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Oftentimes love is forbidden, which makes it even more dangerous. This is the story of Rachel, a young woman living in Roman-occupied Jerusalem who made a disastrous and foolish oath to a temple priest in order to save the life of her child. The price is that neither she, nor the baby's father can ever die. Ever. She rears families, only to suffer as she witnesses them grow old and die, make stupid decisions and worse, be a fool. Yes, she grows old but she always comes back as the 18 year old wo ...more
Ron Charles
Rachel, the 2,000-year-old heroine of Dara Horn’s "Eternal Life," wants to know how to die. A terrible bargain to save her son back in ancient Jerusalem cursed her with a life that never ends. Now Rachel cannot stand “the absolute loneliness, the bottomless homesick loneliness of years upon years of lies, the deep cold void of a loneliness no mortal can imagine.” She has buried enough husbands and outlived enough children. In her current iteration — her favorite so far — she is an 84-year-old gr ...more
Michael Austin
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
There is nothing either complicated or original about the plot of Dara Horn's novel, Eternal Life. A person has been alive for two thousand years and cannot die wants to die because, as it turns out, living forever kind of sucks. This is the Greek myth (and Tennyson poem) Tithonus. It is Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man. It is about eleventy thousand vampire movies. And it is Sarah Perry's Melmoth, one of my favorite books from last year, about a woman who denied Christ and had to wander the ear ...more
Bonnie Shores
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf, supernatural
I wouldn't normally rate a book that I didn't finish; however, since I "read" more than 5 hours of this just-under-9-hour audiobook, I think that's fair.


While the premise of Eternal Life was good, it fell flat (imho) in execution. The writing was flawless, but it was boring. To me, it felt like nothing more than a philosophical debate on the merits (or lack thereof) of living forever and nothing more. I've contemplated the topic myself and have come to the conclusion that it would not be a good
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
When Rachel was very young and foolish, she made a sacred pact to save her son. Rather than her life, though, she sacrificed her death. Thus, Rachel keeps living through the centuries, loving and losing a succession of husbands and children. The only constant is her immortal beloved, who has been wooing/stalking her since Roman times. The novel alternates between her first life in ancient Jerusalem and the present day, when a fresh crop of descendants inspires her to resume her quest for an endi ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but I did. Probably around a 3.5. It would have been perfect for the "life" tag, but alas I didn't make it in time. The reason I picked it up, is because it is a community read for our local Jewish Philanthropy association. The last time I went in 2017, this would be the second I believe, the book was Here I am by Jonathan Safran Foer. Over 500 people showed up, and the author spoke. I had loved that book and gave it 5 stars. Hearing the author speak, and ha ...more
Jason Pettus
This is one of the more beautiful books I've read in some time, and a refreshing reminder that there are still occasionally brand-new pleasures to be found in contemporary fiction, even if you have to read a hundred novels with completely expected storylines to find the next unique exception. It's the story of a woman named Rachel, an Israeli Jew living in Roman times, who in a moment of grief is convinced to swear an obscure Hebrew vow that will cure her deathly sick child, but render her immor ...more
Kim McGee
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a sweeping look at eternity and the love that binds parents and their child. We make deals with God all the time - in times of despair or just when we need a bit of good luck but would you make a deal to live forever in exchange for God sparing the life of your son. That is exactly what Rachel and the boy's father did in biblical times. Rachel has watched her hundreds of children grow old, outlived all of her husbands only to die and be reborn as someone new. Her true love also made the ...more
M.E. Tudor
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How many mothers would gladly give their life to save their child? When Rachel agrees to give up her death to save her sick son, she doesn’t really understand what that means until she’s burnt to death and wakes up the same age she was when she and her lover to a vow together to save their son’s life. Two thousand years and many lives and deaths later, Rachel is ready to really die. She’s tired of watching her husbands and children growing old and dying. In the modern era, her favorite granddaug ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. There were parts of this book I really enjoyed-including the concept. But somewhere along the way, it seemed to dwell on go into large parts (like Rocky's life) that didn't really seem to go with the theme. It seemed disjointed to me. I enjoyed the biblical history parts and the concept about doing anything for your children and also how dying really does make life worth living.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, 2019
Hmm. This is an interesting one.

It is no spoiler by any means to say that Rachel has been alive for over 2,000 years. It's also not really a spoiler to say that somebody else from her time has been, too, and he's more or less been stalking her through the millennia, trying to get her to see things his way.

There’s something not quite right with this book. I mean that only structurally. Something seems off about it. Maybe that's pacing, or maybe that's a lack of impact when something big is revea
Jill Meyer
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it would help the reader of Dara Horm's "Eternal Life" is they were both a biblical scholar and a lover of Magical Realism as a writing style. Horn's book basically covers over two thousand years in the life of Rachel, who simply, cannot die. She can be burned to cinders - and was many times - and she will return to life as an 18 year old, ready to begin yet another life as a wife and mother. She thinks she has had seventy or so life times and by 2017, simply wants to die - permanently.

Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you and your lover were cursed to never be able to die, how would you spend your eternity? Hopefully more wisely and reflectively than the narrator, Rachel. After living thousands of years, loving a procession of husbands and raising dozens of families, she is still obnoxiously as immature as the 18 year old who made the life for death bargain in the first place. She is forever gasping in surprise, and having the world fall out from beneath her feet at every revelation. This is a quick read, ...more
Rita	 Marie
Jul 04, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-fiction, dnf
DNF at 30%. Heaps of infodumps about Jewish history and rituals, a whiny heroine who has learned absolutely nothing in 2000 years of living, no plot whatsoever. Clever premise, but otherwise a total fail.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this book because it has such an interesting premise: a woman who cannot die and who has already lived for 2000 years. I’ve read several books with this premise and so far none of them has left me satisfied.

This one came close at times. By the end it seems like the main character, Rachel, has come to terms with, or at least found a way to live, her endless life. But, seriously, it took her 2000 years to get to that point? Or has she just once again started yet another life
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eternal Life, by Dara Horn, was one of the most interesting novels I have read in a long time. I do not normally choose to read books that include time travel, and I did not know this one would. Had I known, I would not have picked it up, but I am glad that I started to read it, and that I was instantly hooked. It is a quick paced story of Rachel, who was born more than 2000 years ago, the daughter of a Jewish scribe, who fell in love with Elezar, the son of a priest, though not a priest in the ...more
Karen McQuestion
I really enjoyed this book even though it wasn't quite what I anticipated. The transitions back and forth through time were seamlessly done, which is no small thing, and the writing was beautiful. I loved the way the author interwove cultural and historical details. My only small quibble was that the ending was not entirely satisfying to me as a reader, at least initially. But after giving it a lot of thought, I realized it was cleverly done and in keeping with the message of the book. The fault ...more
Jackie Keller
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I was put off by the way the story is told - you have to infer and then later chapters reveal the blanks. But by the end I loved it. Tells a big picture story in a small and personal way. ❤ ...more
Robin Friedman
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rachel Weeping For Her Children

Sometimes reading one book leads directly to another. I had just read a book by a 20th century American philosopher, William E. Hocking, exploring issues surrounding the role of death in human experience and in understanding the meaning of life and the possibility of a form of survival after death. Upon finishing the book, I saw Dara Horn's new novel "Eternal Life" prominently displayed on the new books shelf of the local library. I thought it would make a fitting
Good Book Fairy
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, 2019
Eternal Life forces you to look at mortality through an entirely different lens. This book will make you think and it will stretch your mind. It’s a book that you’ll want to talk about, to unravel your thoughts. It’s about death and what happens if you can’t die.

This whole concept baffled me and I was in awe of the brashness and newness of such an idea. After Rachel, our protagonist, bargains with a high Priest to let her dying child live in exchange for her to never die. I’m sure at the time it
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Play Book Tag: Eternal Life by Dara Horn, 3.5 stars 8 19 Mar 03, 2019 12:04PM  

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Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, is one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" and the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.
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“Eventually Honi asked God to kill him, because he realized he had become superfluous. Which in fact was the entire purpose of life, to live in such a way that one made oneself superfluous. And therein lay the root of the problem. There was no point in any of it, none at all, unless one had plans to leave.” 1 likes
“No one had any idea of how thick a layer of arbitrary conventions enshrouded a naked soul.” 0 likes
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