This book is a hard one to review. When that happens to me, it is usually because I liked the book so much that I can’t find the words to give it justice or that the book was so unique, undefined in genre, and really hard to put your finger on to explain to anyone other than to beg them to read it. In the case of Andra Watkins’ To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, both of these scenarios are the case. Sometimes a book you just feel and hop inside and get lost in–this was one of those books.
With amazing sentence structure and description, original word choices and phrases, and literary techniques that take talent or practice to perfect, this novel is an achievement in fiction. As Watkins’ debut novel, An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis reads as if a classic, seasoned author penned it. It’s superb plot, subtle nuances, and plot twists and points that left you guessing or thinking all worked together in order to bring out the genius of this book. I applaud Watkins for her stepping out of the box in regards to her fiction writing and taking a chance on marketing to readers. It’s pure literary fiction, but one that most readers can enjoy. Literary fiction as this is like art–it’s fluid, ornate, and does not like strict boundaries or edges.
With having a bachelor degree in English, I read a lot of literature at the University. It cemented my love for the obscure books that value creative writing rather than cookie-cutter, assembly line mainstream novels that many bestselling authors publish. Watkins novel is definitely one that can be used in classes now in order to teach how creative writing can let go and still be…..well….creative and quirky. The depth and atmosphere of the novel moved me, absorbed me, and I’ll be reading this one again (something I rarely do).
So since I’ve said that it doesn’t fit “into a box” or genre, it makes it hard to recommend to readers. Many read only certain types of books in certain genres. I ask you today to think about reading outside your comfort zone. Let the art of her words take you away to a place of enlightened reading. It can be considered historical because one of the main characters is Meriwether Lewis, a very famous man in history (Lewis and Clark, of course), yet really it’s his ghost that is helping the protagonist (a little girl) in the novel as she runs from a deranged judge. Yes, I did say his ghost. The story is in the late 1970s so it isn’t really set in the exploration days of the celebrity duo. It’s more paranormal, but not probably in the way that mainstream is now defining paranormal. It’s otherworldly and fantastical, inventive and entertaining, yet not creepy or scary.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone as long as you keep an open mind and don’t try to categorize it in any way beyond literary creative fiction. Read for pleasure and taste every word. This is a great for a summer vacation or vacation day because it’s so addictive you’ll read it without ever getting up.
Watch for my interesting interview with Andra Watkin’s tomorrow (Tuesday, April 22)!
TO LIVE FOREVER: AN AFTERLIFE JOURNEY OF MERIWETHER LEWIS, Synopsis~
Is remembrance immortality? Nobody wants to be forgotten, least of all the famous.
Meriwether Lewis lived a memorable life. He and William Clark were the first white men to reach the Pacific in their failed attempt to discover a Northwest Passage. Much celebrated upon their return, Lewis was appointed governor of the vast Upper Louisiana Territory and began preparing his eagerly-anticipated journals for publication. But his re-entry into society proved as challenging as his journey. Battling financial and psychological demons and faced with mounting pressure from Washington, Lewis set out on a pivotal trip to the nation’s capital in September 1809. His mission: to publish his journals and salvage his political career. He never made it. He died in a roadside inn on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee from one gunshot to the head and another to the abdomen.
Was it suicide or murder? His mysterious death tainted his legacy and his fame quickly faded. Merry’s own memory of his death is fuzzy at best. All he knows is he’s fallen into Nowhere, where his only shot at redemption lies in the fate of rescuing another. An ill-suited “guardian angel,” Merry comes to in the same New Orleans bar after twelve straight failures. Now, with one drink and a two-dollar bill he is sent on his last assignment, his final shot at escape from the purgatory in which he’s been dwelling for almost 200 years. Merry still believes he can reverse his forgotten fortunes.
Nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney is the daughter of French Quarter madam and a Dixieland bass player. When her mother wins custody in a bitter divorce, Emmaline carves out her childhood among the ladies of Bourbon Street. Bounced between innocence and immorality, she struggles to find her safe haven, even while her mother makes her open her dress and serve tea to grown men.
It isn’t until Emmaline finds the strange cards hidden in her mother’s desk that she realizes why these men are visiting: her mother has offered to sell her to the highest bidder. To escape a life of prostitution, she slips away during a police raid on her mother’s bordello, desperate to find her father in Nashville.
Merry’s fateful two-dollar bill leads him to Emmaline as she is being chased by the winner of her mother’s sick card game: The Judge. A dangerous Nowhere Man convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Judge Wilkinson is determined to possess her, to tease out his wife’s spirit and marry her when she is ready. That Emmaline is now guarded by Meriwether Lewis, his bitter rival in life, further stokes his obsessive rage.
To elude the Judge, Em and Merry navigate the Mississippi River to Natchez. They set off on an adventure along the storied Natchez Trace, where they meet Cajun bird watchers, Elvis-crooning Siamese twins, War of 1812 re-enactors, Spanish wild boar hunters and ancient mound dwellers. Are these people their allies? Or pawns of the perverted, powerful Judge?
After a bloody confrontation with the Judge at Lewis’s grave, Merry and Em limp into Nashville and discover her father at the Parthenon. Just as Merry wrestles with the specter of success in his mission to deliver Em, The Judge intercedes with renewed determination to win Emmaline, waging a final battle for her soul. Merry vanquishes the Judge and earns his redemption. As his spirit fuses with the body of Em’s living father, Merry discovers that immortality lives within the salvation of another, not the remembrance of the multitude.
Read an Excerpt HERE.
Buy the Book
About the Author
I’m the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, which published March 1, 2014. It’s a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.
eating (A lot; Italian food is my favorite.)
traveling (I never met a destination I didn’t like.)
reading (My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo.)
coffee (the caffeinated version) and COFFEE (sex)
performing (theater, singing, public speaking, playing piano)
time with my friends
Sirius XM Chill
yoga (No, I can’t stand on my head.)
writing in bed
I don’t like:
getting up in the morning
cilantro (It is the devil weed.)
surprises (For me or for anyone else.)
Natchez Trace Walk
The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.
To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.
I will take readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me.
I’ll also have a daily YouTube segment where I answer reader questions about the book, my walk, my arguments—I mean—interactions with my dad, and whatever readers want to know. Ask me anything at: mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com.
Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/toliveforevertour
Tour Hashtag: #ToLiveForeverTour