Cover image for Eternal life : a novel
Eternal life : a novel
Horn, Dara, 1977- author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Physical Description:
236 pages ; 24 cm
Ever since she made a deal to save her son's life in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Rachel has been doomed to live eternally, but as her descendants develop new technologies for immortality, she realizes that, for them to live fully, she must die.


Call Number
Material Type
Alfred Box of Books Library 1 FIC HOR Adult Fiction Book
Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 FIC HOR Adult Fiction Book
Elmira - Steele Memorial Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book
Horseheads Free Library 1 FICTION Adult Fiction Book

On Order



Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can't die. Her recent troubles--widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son--are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, and hundreds of children. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she's tried everything to free herself, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever.

But as the twenty-first century begins and her children and grandchildren--consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering--develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out.

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.

Author Notes

Dara Horn is a two-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction and one of Granta's Best American Novelists. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* One strand of Horn's wondrously complex A Guide for the Perplexed (2013) concerned the efforts of a brilliant software designer to create a program that would allow its users to record every element of their lives and, thus, to keep the past alive, at least digitally. Now, in her latest novel, she again explores this notion of keeping the past alive but from an altogether new perspective: eternal life. In first-century Jerusalem, the High Priest gives Rachel and her lover, Elazar, a way to save their dying child's life, but to do so, they must sacrifice their own deaths. A no-brainer, we mortals would think, but Rachel, now 2,000 years old, craves an arc to her life that only death can bring and, with it, a release from the suffering she has endured and watched her children endure through two millennia of Jewish history, from the Roman sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple, through the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.Horn dexterously leaps across time, following various of Rachel's many lives and allowing us to see her agony build through the centuries. As Elazar, who betrayed Rachel but with whom she shares an unbreakable bond and unquenchable love, explains, It will never stop happening, Rachel. . . . Whether it's next spring or ten thousand years from now with every single child, you are going to watch that child die. And your husbands and lovers, too. All of them. And yet there is always an and yet in Horn's novels the pull of life and of love is nearly as strong as the lure of death. In that tension, 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.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2018 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

At the heart of Horn's funny and compassionate novel is a 2,000-year-old Jewish mother seeking reasons for living, some way of dying, and help for her 56-year-old son who lives in her basement. Rachel's story begins in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, where at 16 she marries her father's apprentice although she loves the high priest's son, Elazar, and is pregnant with Elazar's baby. Two years later, when the child falls ill, Rachel makes a bargain with God: she must give up not her life but her death in exchange for the child's survival. The child survives, and Rachel endures successive lifetimes over the next 20 centuries, each lifetime immediately following the previous. Elazar, having made a similar bargain, pursues Rachel through time, occasionally finding her, though never for long. Now in 21st-century New York, Rachel's current form (or "version," as she calls it) is an 84-year-old widow. She thinks she has found a way to finally die, but first she wants to see her current problem child, the one in the basement, get a life. She also wishes to protect her granddaughter, a medical researcher dangerously close to discovering the truth behind Rachel's unusual DNA. Horn (A Guide for the Perplexed) weaves historical detail and down-to-earth humor into this charming Jewish Groundhog Day spanning two millennia. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Living forever is nearly everyone's fantasy, but this fresh and arresting new work from Horn (A Guide for the Perplexed) proves that it's not really what you'd want. In Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Rachel makes a spiritual bargain to spare the life of her young son, joined by his father, a priest who is not Rachel's husband. Since then, she's had dozens of marriages and hundreds of children, and we first meet her as matriarch of a contemporary American family. Rachel, a successful businesswoman, is disappointed in latest son Rocky and wary because granddaughter Hannah has won a grant to study antiaging processes, which Rachel fears will lead to her next momentous departure. Time and again, she must enter a new life, the price of saving her first son being that she's always abandoning the beloved children that followed. Meanwhile, charismatic but dangerous Elazar, frighteningly in love with her, tracks her through time as both protector and tormentor. In this brilliant take on the burdens of immortality, the protagonist is not so much bearing witness to the ages, as typically seen in such stories, but bearing huge personal costs Horn makes us feel acutely. VERDICT Both heady time travel and a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of life; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 8/14/17.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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