ForeverAmazing Historical FictionI love historical fiction — particularly when it entails the history of a place that is filled with the most fascinating people and events that the world has ever known. Such is the tale found in Mr. Hamill’s rendition of Forever. I never appreciated how significant a roll that New York played in the growth of this nation, until I had read this piece of historical fiction. Only then did I appreciate how much history can be found in this one amazing city! And while the story is beautiful, and very creative, and while there are characters that are both profound and profane all encapsulated in this little gem of a book — it is the city itself that commands the center of attention.
Cormac, as the main character of this story, offers us an interesting look at history that we rarely get to see. The problem that most people have with reading history is that it is either dry and boring, or that it simple doesn’t get presented as a cohesive whole. The reason for this, of course is that so much happened all at once, that it is hard to put the entire history of any one city (not to mention all the countries, all the people, and all the events of mankind) into a linear format. But Mr. Hamill found an interesting way to give us a ring side seat for the development of this city from before the American Revolution up through the falling of the Twin Towers. Simply put — he provided us with a character that had the unique perspective of having lived through all this history — and he presents it as an eyewitness account.
What would you record if you could live for several hundreds of years. If the only limit to your entire existence was that you couldn’t leave this one little piece of property, which at the time was a tiny little town struggling to survive — but would eventually grow into one of the largest metropolises in the world? What kind of events would you consider important? And what kind of events would you consider as insignificant, passing details that really have no bearing on the overall development of the place you called home? Would your perspective change in relation to these questions if your life span were guaranteed to be several hundred years, as opposed to a few decades? And would you come to see humanity as all part of the same family, or would they each occupy a unique place, in both time and space — and have a small role to play on the stage of this world?
These are the questions that Mr. Hamill constantly wrangles with as he developed this particular story. And the answers he came up with are surprising. In some cases, some of the most significant elements of history — at least as we consider them today — take a back seat to some of the more passing elements of this long lived character’s life. And some of the most insignificant details take on great importance, when they are seen through the telescope of one man’s interpretation of events in relation to everything else that he has seen.
As I was reading through this book I kept coming back to the question of what is really important in life? Are there things that we see as so dramatically important that other events, which are changing the whole face of the world around us, seem inconsequential? And even more significant — are there certain events that happen that — no matter who you are, or what is going on in your life — do those events form passages linking the past, present, and the future into one unifying whole. Their meanings as significant today as they were on the day of their occurrence? Did the attack on the World Trade Centers mean more to those that had the memory of Hiroshima or Pearl Harbor? And did slavery seem as big a sin to a man that was truly confined — eternally to one little piece of land that only spanned the boundaries of New York proper?
This is a book of questions, which I came away from with a profound respect for the depths that a truly gifted author can encourage his readers to explore. And more than that it made me appreciate how sometimes seeing through the lens of someone else’s perceptions can have dramatic implications for our own interpretations of people, events, and places. And even more than that, we are able to learn that who we are is defined because of how we relate to the world in which we live, and not simply because we exist.