Staff Picks: Eternal Life by Dara Horn
Picked by Michelle N.
Rachel Azaria can’t die. Two thousand years ago, she and Elazar sacrificed their own deaths so that their son might survive a terrible illness—and for two thousand years, Rachel has lived life after life and raised family after family, loving them all, changing very little.
She moves from place to place as her apparent immortality became a danger to her loved ones because of the beliefs of the society around them, or as she is killed in a fire and finds herself renewed, a physically young woman again, somewhere in the world far from where she has “died.” The first time this happened was when she was burned to death at the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, and it’s happened enough times since for her to have lost any fear of it.
What she does fear is that her life will never end. After this many centuries and this many lives, living has lost its meaning. It has also, in this age of social media and biometrics, become much harder to properly disappear and start a new life. And Elazar—who sacrificed his death alongside her, who has followed her and who has become a mysterious presence in the lives of her offspring—Elazar is stalking her, convinced that they are meant to be lovers throughout eternity.
Then her favorite granddaughter starts studying longevity, and Rachel begins to hope, for the first time in many, many lifetimes, that she can die after all. Maybe she can strike a bargain with this granddaughter.
This book is beautifully written—you really get the sense of what somebody born two millennia ago would feel and think if they were still alive today. You understand both the joy and the despair of unending life, the mystery of a terrible oath resulting in a miracle so huge that there’s no knowing whether it’s a blessing or a curse. Highly recommend.