Wednesday, April 2, 2014

To Live Forever by Andra Watkins

Title: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis
Author: Andra Watkins

Genre: Fiction (Speculative / 1970s / New Orleans / Mississippi / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Child Narrator)
Publisher/Publication Date: World Hermit Press (3/1/2014)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A young girl is saved from a predatory man by the stuck-in-limbo ghost of Meriwether Lewis.
Reading Challenges: E-book

Do I like the cover?: I uh-dore it. Clean, sharp, eye-catching.

I'm reminded of...: Cass Dalglish, Michael Williams

First line: A drop of sweat hung from the end of my nose.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy.

Why did I get this book?: The set up was too bonkers to resist!

Review: The premise of this book is completely bananas, and I mean that in the best way.

The ghost of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) is on his 13th and last mission to redeem his soul when he's sent to 1977 New Orleans. Tasked with helping Emmeline, a 9-year old girl who was just sold by her prostitute mother to the highest bidder, he agrees to help her find her father.  They're pursued by a murderous judge who is convinced Emmeline is the reincarnation of his beloved wife -- and worse, as Merry discovers, the judge is a lost ghost like himself, and a dark figure from Merry's past.

To return Emmeline to her father in Nashville, Merry treks the Natchez Trace -- a 400+ mile long trail that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee -- which is also the site of his mysterious death.  The journey transforms them while providing many moments of danger and excitement for the reader.

Despite the crazy setup, the story works, and works well. Alternating viewpoints between Merry, Emmeline, and the Judge, Watkins manages to make this credulity-straining premise feel believable and real.  There's some philosophical wrestling that makes this lightly literary but doesn't get so ethereal as to lose the emotional oomph from Emmeline's plight.  The Judge is unabashedly malevolent while Merry struggles to be the best kind of (ghost) man he can for Emmeline's sake.  Emmeline herself shifts between childishness and too-early maturity and provides the real emotional hook of the story.

Watkins walked the entire Natchez Trace in honor of the book's debut and her passion for the place shines through in her writing.

While not precisely historical fiction -- the novel is set in 1977 -- it has a sense of place and time from our ghostly characters that inspired me to start googling the moment I finished.  If you like adventure stories with strong young women and you don't mind a little paranormal-ness, consider this one.  It might sound odd, but I promise there's a lovely emotional payoff along with some eye-opening details about Meriwether Lewis and the first governor of Louisiana (a double agent, as it turns out!).  

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of To Live Forever to one lucky reader -- a paperback copy (US) or ebook (US/international). To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and international readers, ends 4/18.


  1. What, no zombie Meriwether Lewis? How disappointing!

    I kid, I does sound fun though!

  2. That premise *is* totally bananas, but it sounds like a fun read!

  3. I've had this on my TBR definitely sounds original!

    1. It really is, and not for the sake of just being odd. The story works!

  4. Great Review! That is cool that it is set in the south. It is the region I live in!

    1. Lauralee -- I love reading about places I've been in/lived in my books -- hope this one evokes place for you. I found it very atmospheric!

  5. Sounds good and thanks for giving us overseas readers an option. Much appreciated.

    1. Of course! Glad when I can offer it to folks; wish I could do it more!

  6. I can always count on you to bring something interesting to my attention. I love the fresh unorthodox story premise and put this to the top of my TBR pile.My available reading time is growng shorter by the day and I need to be more and more selective - this hits my must readlist.

    1. Judith -- so glad you're going to give this one a try! I love this kind of imaginative, innovative fiction and hope others enjoy it too -- hope it's a win for you!

  7. I so want that book. I'm not sure I can express how much I want it.