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Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Horn is a contemporary writer of note and author of five novels. She wrote her first novel, In the Image, while studying Hebrew literature at Cambridge University. Her second, The World to Come, was published in 2006--the same year that she completed her Harvard Ph.D. in comparative literature. She is also the mother of four young children.

Horn’s scholarly background, as well as her experience as a mother, play a large role in her most recent book, Eternal Life. When we first meet the main protagonist, Rachel, she is a 16-year-old girl in ancient Israel. The book recounts her life—and the lives of the Jewish people—during the next 2000 years.

Horn, in an interview for Publishers Weekly, notes:

As an American Jew you live in two cultures with completely opposing views of time. In America, only the present and the future matter: it doesn’t matter who your parents are, or what your background is; what matters is what you do with the opportunities this country gives you. The founding mythology of Jewish culture, when God gives the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, is exactly the opposite. It wasn’t just that generation of Israelites who were present, but all the future generations of their descendants were also present. *

The notion that life is meaningful only if it ends is explored in myriad ways—seriously and whimsically. Rachel, and her lover through the centuries, Elazar, have taken an oath to never die to save the life of their first-born son, Yochanan. Through their stories, we relive the destruction of the first and second temples, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust, and meet memorable characters along the way. Rachel’s present is also that of the reader. Her memories are often triggered by her contemporary children, and she and the reader are transported back in time.

Eternal Life is speculative fiction at its best. The characters, especially Rachel and Elazar, are all too human and the historical aspects of the book are superb. If you are a fan of historical fiction, philosophical questions, and love stories that span time and place, this book is not to be missed.

 

*https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/75141-dara-horn-s-deathly-dilemma.html

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