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Eternal Life: Book summary and reviews of Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Eternal Life

by Dara Horn

Eternal Life by Dara Horn X
Eternal Life by Dara Horn
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About this book

Book Summary

The award-winning, critically acclaimed author returns with an ingenious novel about what it would mean to live forever.

Rachel has an unusual problem: she can't die. Her recent troubles - widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son - are only the latest. She's already put up with scores of marriages and hundreds of children, over 2,000 years - ever since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem. There's only one other person in the world who understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever. br>
In 2018, as her children and grandchildren develop new technologies for immortality, Rachel knows she must enable her beloved offspring to live fully - without her, but with meaning - by finding a way for herself to die.

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Horn constructs a deeply satisfying novel, rich not only in history and the great philosophical conundrums of living and dying but also in humor and passion." - Booklist

"Horn (A Guide for the Perplexed) weaves historical detail and down-to-earth humor into this charming Jewish Groundhog Day spanning two millennia." - Publishers Weekly

This information about Eternal Life was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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RebeccaR

Unforgettable; Makes the Book's Premise Seem Believable
To start off, let me urge prospective readers to NOT read detailed book reviews which contain spoilers. Part of my enjoyment of this book was the surprise factor. Eternal Life was different than I expected since it began in ancient Biblical times. I am not sure how I thought the author would handle transitions for Rachel, the female protagonist, to move on to more of her life, but I certainly was not prepared for how the protagonist moved on. While I hate to say too much and ruin the book for anyone, the transitions are extremely emotional -almost frightening at times. These events always seem to happen just when the reader is hoping Rachel's life can go on "as is" for a while longer. Of course, since Rachel's two-thousand years on Earth have to be a secret, the segue into the rebirth of a new, youthful Rachel must involve some cataclysmic events within the family being left behind.
When I started the book, I had not thought about the eventual need to leave as one's other family members -especially children- started aging. Author Dara Horn does an incredible job of capturing the intense emotions of everything from young love and letting hormones hijack clear thinking to the omnipresent undercurrent of sadness, of always knowing that one's current family is part of the cycle of life and will have to be left behind.

Will you, the reader, want to live forever at the end of the book? Highly unlikely. Every time you fall in love or give birth to a child or treasure your friends and family, you know they will die before you do or that you will have to leave them heartbroken when you must transition out of that era. Whew! I feel that this is an unforgettable story which just may leave readers more appreciative of the beauty in everyday life. It would be a good choice for book clubs because people could talk about poor choices in life, picking the wrong partner, parents' warnings that turned to have validity, and on and on. This might be a book that is more appealing for women. I am so glad that I read it!

Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)

A contender for your short shelf.
If you are a collector of wonderful sentences you might want to read Eternal Life, by Dara Horn, with a highlighter or notebook in hand. Much of the book is an immersion -- sights, sounds, smells, textures -- in first-century Jewish communities. This deep backstory is seamlessly woven through present time. The storyline is a carrier wave for Big Questions about life and death and the persistence of memory. In this book's nearly geological sense of time, I was simultaneously depressed by the smallness of human lives and inspired to live more largely. I found the ending at first surprising and then inevitable. If your life has too many good books and too little time, Eternal Life could be a contender for your short shelf.

Carole P, Town Library Ma.

eternal life by dara horn
Rachel is old. Really old. Like over 2000 years old; and try as she might, she cannot die. She has married over and over again. Borne hundreds of children. She has buried them all. 2000 years earlier she committed an act that gave her eternal life. Now she cannot escape it.

This is an unusual, exceptional book. The writing just flows. It is much more than just a story of a woman who can't die. Bonds between mother and child, husband and wife , faith and grief are all part of this tale. Most of all, it is about love and life. While this is not my typical book, the plot description drew me in. It sounded fascinating and it was. It was also just a lovely read!

Rory A. (Ventura, CA)

Sit back and stare into one incredible universe.
One of the reasons we read is for those moments in which we sit back with a book and think, "Where did this come from?! Where has this author been in life and in the imagination?"

Dara Horn's latest novel, "Eternal Life" is exactly like that. At one time or another, we all have surely thought about what we might do if we were immortal, how much more time we would have for the things we might not have time for in our finite lives.

But for Rachel, it's ancient Jerusalem devastated by the Romans. It's giving birth to and seeing all of her children eventually die. How could we mere mortals even stand that?

It's Rachel's journey through this, what she has seen, and what she sees in the present day through that past, that makes this a thoughtful, constantly probing novel that will make you really think about life as we are living it, and just be amazed at Rachel's tenacity in the process. Amazing work.

Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Really a 6 star book for me
Maybe it helps to be "old" to truly appreciate this book. I've been reflecting lately on the wonder of seeing the lives of others develop - sometimes in surprising ways. I also have thought the main downside of dying is not knowing "the rest of the story". (That's the reader in me.) Rachel's life is very long and her experiences are painful, exhausting, isolating but also transporting. Don't miss this book.

Annie P. (Murrells Inlet, SC)

Eternal Life by Dara Horn - An exciting trip
Rachel is immortal and with so many lives already lived, difficult to understand at times, but you want to hold her hand and run with her to the next "version".
Dara Horn's style of writing is so refreshing, her story so demanding that I got up in the middle of the night just to find out what happens next. Her wordplay of description and simile, English and Hebrew, slang from today and ancient times all mixed together and flowing like a river of song, easy on the eye and the mind, stirring interest so much that I could hardly wait to turn the page, but then went back and reread what I had just devoured.
EL is a book of fantasy but it's also of could be, and of why not. So much is possible now that never was thinkable in the past, and so much of the past is inscrutable that this is a distinct possibility. I am going to look differently at people after reading this book, and wonder if he or she is another Rachel.
This is the first time I've read a book by Dara Horn – but it certainly won't be the last!

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Dara Horn Author Biography

Michael B. Priest

Dara Horn is the award-winning author of six books, including the novels In the Image (Norton 2002), The World to Come (Norton 2006), All Other Nights (Norton 2009), A Guide for the Perplexed (Norton 2013), and Eternal Life (Norton 2018), and the essay collection People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present (Norton 2021). One of Granta magazine's Best Young American Novelists (2007), she is the recipient of two National Jewish Book Awards, the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, the Harold U. Ribalow Award, and the Reform Judaism Fiction Prize, and she was a finalist for the Wingate Prize, the Simpson Family Literary Prize, and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Her books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books, Booklist's 25 Best Books of the Decade, and San ...

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