Missions, when successful, lead from purgatory to the afterlife.
Publisher: Word Hermit Press
First Published: 3rd February 2014
Date Reviewed: 29th July 2014
Meriweather Lewis (a real-life explorer) is stuck in the bar of Nowhere, world between the worlds of life and death. This is his last chance to pass over – a child in 1977 is in need of help. The girl’s mother was granted custody but her lifestyle is seedy and Emmaline wishes to escape to her father.
To Live Forever is a fair offering that blends genres as well as mixing fact with fiction, but could have done with more work.
What’s good and interesting is the blending – history (social and your bog standard), fantasy, fact, fiction, and the road trip theme. Whilst it feels strange to be reading about the afterlife of a real person from history, you can see why Watkins chose to write Lewis into it as his time as an explorer and the mystery surrounding his death fit what she wanted to say. On a related note it’s recommended that you prepare yourself for the unrealistic as besides the fantasy the book rests somewhat on dei ex machina.
And it’s nice to see a book focus on a person you don’t read about every day. To an degree, Watkins keeps his story mysterious – an intriguing balance of supposition and silence means that you will read what Watkins thinks but then wonder later if you did actually read it. Watkins may have a fully-fledged opinion, but the book is more an introduction, an invitation for you to find out more and decide for yourself.
In addition to all this the book is successful at showing rather than telling. You do get a bit of backstory now and again but Watkins has kept it to an acceptable amount and the vast majority of what you learn is through dialogue that is bereft of info-dumps.
However the book could do with another round of edits. The language the characters use does not always fit their situation – it’s easy to forget that Lewis is from history because he uses language from our modern time, indeed often the language is straight from our present day rather than the ’70s, rendering it out of place entirely. The characters who come and go are all stereotypes and leave little to recommend them, most notably a pair of conjoined twins who are always ‘dragging’ each other across the room. It is sometimes hard to remember if the story is set in the 70s or if it is set a number of years earlier, and Em doesn’t always act her age, seeming to be a lot younger or older at any given time.
There are ellipses that go on to the extent that you would think the key got stuck on the keyboard, and there are many, many commas in the wrong places. Characters ‘cut their eyes’, which turns out to be bloodless. A couple of plot holes, not so bad by themselves, are unfortunately magnified by the rest of the issues.
Perhaps most problematic, though this does depend on the individual’s view, is the Judge, the bad guy. He is the bad guy, so it makes sense that he’s cruel, but given that he thinks young Em is his wife, his remarks are particularly creepy. He surely should be a lot nicer to the host of his wife’s spirit, especially as he’s willing Em/Ann to remember him. On this note of inappropriateness, however, it should be noted that although Em’s mother’s particular win in court seems unbelievable, it’s meant to be and Watkins will explain all in due course.
The very end invokes a particular Indian folk tale. I won’t tell you which one because for some of you that would spoil the ending, but I will say that if you do know which it is, your knowledge of it may make the ending even better. There is nothing to suggest that Watkins was inspired by the tale (indeed I only know of it thanks to a Bollywood film) but it does add a layer to the ending that is interesting to consider.
To Live Forever has a good premise and will teach you a fair amount. It also sports a nice dual narration that really adds to the tale. But, pun unintended, it could have used more time.
I received this book for review from the author for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
July 30, 2014, 5:56 pm
I read a fiction novel about Lewis and his friend Clark a year or two (?) ago and enjoyed it. I enjoy historical fiction, but admit their particular time period is not one I gravitate towards very often. Anyway, all that to say I am familiar with Lewis and his life.
The premise of the book you read sounds really interesting and different. I really like books that cross genres, especially when they include a fantasy element.
July 31, 2014, 11:52 am
Whilst this sounds like a great blend of genres and ideas I can’t help but think it is too broad a mix. Great review, whilst I’d pick this up if I were to see it in thee library I’m not convinced its a book I’d buy.