Book Review – To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Watkins

“I’ll always be with you, Em. Always.”

When I started this blog, I wanted a platform with strong community features. Blogging in a vacuum has its therapeutic merits but then why not just write a private journal?

No, I wanted neighbors that I could actually talk to and get to know (unlike real-life neighbors these days). The best part is I could find neighbors that like what I like and do what I do. Over the past few years of blogging, I’ve made some wonderful acquaintances out of those neighbors, one of them being Andra Watkins. She’s as smart as a whip and hilarious to boot, so I was more than happy to read her first book and write a review.

To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is her debut novel and if this is a taste of what’s to come, bring on the next course.

Emmaline (“Em”) Cagney is a nine-year-old girl with one desire — to escape a sordid, dismal life in her mother’s New Orleans brothel. The best way for her to do so is to live with her father in Nashville, but the two are separated by order of a corrupt judge with his own secret and insidious plans. Em’s inadvertent rescue comes from an unlikely hero, the not-quite-ghost of Meriwether (“Merry”) Lewis, a man sentenced to a sort of hell-on-earth because of his own unresolved death.

So begins a perilous physical and emotional journey, trekking the Natchez Trace from New Orleans to Nashville. Luckily, Em and Merry come across a familiar troupe of characters to aid them. The main cast is strong enough to carry the story, but the side cast is a real treat.

Of course, most good stories have some sense of tragedy, which is universal in Watkins’; but so is redemption. We also get a taste of actual historical events without the dreaded infodump. This book does what fiction set in real history should – tell a story and evoke emotions while whetting the appetite for more historical facts. I had never even heard of the Natchez Trace before reading Watkins’ book, but I spent half-a-day learning about its history afterward.

Please read To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. You will be getting in on the ground floor of a talented writer with a bright future.

-Phillip

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