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.
Have you read Ms. Horn’s work? What do you think?