Writing a book of a very similar nature, I was more or less desperate to read this novel. It’s not that eternal life isn’t covered in fiction, more that this is one of the most similar set ups to my Fates project that I’ve come across in years.
Fortunately, via NetGalley, I was able to get an ARC of Eternal Life and immediately started reading, finishing the book rather quickly.
And after the first few chapters, I am happy to report that while some of the concepts are the same, overall, Ayah and Co. are still very much okay in their originality and while we might have some crossover in our audiences, I don’t think there would be any mix up between our novels.
Spoilers ahead. Don’t read if you plan on reading the book with fresh eyes. It’s probably also worth noting that I am extremely close to this subject, having thought about it off and on for the better part of seven years. So, please take my review with a grain of salt.
A relatively straightforward understanding of how/why eternal life came to be. This is a strength I wish my book had.
A relatively seamless story style between a modern storyline and ones that occur earlier in the protagonist’s life.
The use of science. Although a bit too close to home for the protagonist and supporting characters, I do think incorporating science (especially where eternal life is involved) was a smart choice.
An overall engaging plot (although I tended to lose interest when the book jumped back in time). The historical periods did not interest me. However, I think the author did a fine job of asking and defining the question, what would happen if you lived forever? What would you do to save a child? What does love look like spread out over eternity?
Too much religion. Look, it’s fine and I get that faith is a major part of the novel, but I thought it was a bit over the top. In fact, I found myself skimming parts of the book that took place in the past. My character uses religion as a means to an end, but religion is not what got her into an eternal existence. I think the author focuses on Judaism in her novels, which is great, but I thought the faith could have been toned down a bit.
Strange unresolved threads. Our protagonist refers to her children in order, ‘my 53rd son’ or my ’24th daughter.’ I assume part of her eternal penance is to give birth and ultimately see these children die (it’s why I make my character sterile, because this seems like some sort of special horror). While I was less worried by the number of kids, or the children themselves, it seemed strange that Rachel never checks in or runs into some of the many (many!) generations of families she is the matriarch of. Seriously, I worried that some of her great-grandkids would end up getting married, a thought that never really seemed to bother our main character.
An ending I did not particularly care for. I thought more resolve was necessary and was ultimately disappointed by Rachel’s choice.
A title that is too basic. I would really preferred something more poetic than the in your face ‘Eternal Life.’ While I have a literal list of twenty working titles for my Fates project, none of them are so obvious. I’m quite honestly surprised Ms. Horn or her editors wouldn’t have pushed for something a little less on the nose.
I am not Jewish, nor do I claim to have great knowledge of Judaism, but I wondered if some of the motivation for the novel came from the legend of the wandering Jew.
Overall, am I inspired to read other books by the same author? No, I am not. Much like other books that incorporate a lot of religion, it’s simply not for me.
Imagine me scrolling along through an e-mail from NetGalley, when I see this title and synopsis…
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 everything to free herself, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever. But as the twenty-first century begins and her children and grandchildren—consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering—develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out. Gripping, hilarious, and profoundly moving, Eternal Life celebrates the bonds between generations, the power of faith, the purpose of death, and the reasons for being alive.”
I can’t be frustrated, because, it’s literally the exact idea for my Fates manuscript, but with enough changes to not be my Fates project (if that makes any sense). I’m now desperate to read this book, most of me wondering why Ms. Horn has made the choices she has (mainly, allowing the protagonist to have children). Also, while faith has literally no role in my book whatsoever, I think it will be much more pronounced in this title.
While it might seem strange, I’m hoping to dust off my Fates manuscript next year and see if it might be time to finally release it. Yes, I need an editor and cover, etc., however, having not looked at it in 5 years or so, I’m kind of fascinated to see what past Courtney has produced.
(Yes, I will be reviewing the above book, just as soon as I can get my hands on it).
In one of the writing groups I frequent, I found a link to Yasiv, a website that reveals similar items based on “Customers who bought this also bought…” data from Amazon. Naturally, I had to plug in my own works. Please see below for Life After Joe and Confessions of a Band Geek respectively (the Queen is a bit too new to have much tracking just yet).
I’m sure if I were a more intelligent author, I would look into below to develop a bit more of the demographics/habits I should be chasing after, but for now, it’s a simply a fun tool to try out!