Author Pete Hamill has proven more than once he is an extremely talented writer. This book may appeal more to native New Yorkers than those of us who just very much enjoy the city. However, as a book, "Forever", attempts far too much even though it uses over 600 pages to tell its tale. The author mentions some books that he used as references for this work. One of them is part one of a multi-volume history of NYC and it does not even reach the 20th Century. This book attempts to cover far more history with broad strokes and shallow descriptions. It may be fiction but it is historical fiction and must be held to a higher standard.
If the book is broken in to thirds the first of the three is completed before Comic receives his "gift". The second part covers years measured in triple digits, and by the beginning of the third and final section you know the event that will end the book. And I did not read the review that gave the ending event away. The author mentions the subject so many times, the final event is impossible to misjudge. The actual ending of the book I found to be poor and in contradiction to everything the author had lead the reader to believe was important to Cormac. The main character fails to do much of what the centuries of confinement in Manhattan are intended to provide for him. After over 600 pages I like a resolution of some sort as opposed to perhaps there will be a sequel, or perhaps there will not. If there is a part two I will not read it.
To be fair part of the frustration I felt with this book was the familiarity I felt as I had seen the film, "Gangs of New York", recently. I think the film mentioned The Dead Rabbits and The Five Points less than this book did. I was also annoyed by the gentle portrayal of historical figures like Boss Tweed. To suggest this person was a jolly old soused soul who deserved pity at the end of his life is simply absurd. And do not expect to experience NYC as Cormac is alleged to have experienced it for much of what the author will give you are short memories of working steel on the Woolworth Building, laying track, or blasting for subways. The detail is little and far too infrequent.
There is no question that the event the author chose as the culminating point for his book was as large as any in NYC's history, but unlike many of the book's events this final one has repercussions far wider than that of NYC. It actually renders the city a player in larger events, as opposed to the center of history that the author reserves for it throughout the vast majority of the book.
This novel was heavily promoted and created very high expectations. And that may have been the problem. Had the book come out and been left alone it may have had many more reviews and readers that thought much more highly of it. But the reality is this book does not live up to its sweeping premise of a two and one half century epic. And I found the final great event, placed the close of this book in to the category of cliché, for Pete Hamill is far too good a writer to use what he did to close out his book.