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

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About the book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis

To Live Forever

Publication Date: March 1, 2014
World Hermit Press
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

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, or buy the whole book

Excerpt | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the author, Andra Watkins (in her own words)

Andra Watkins

Hey. I’m Andra Watkins. I’m a native of Tennessee, but I’m lucky to call Charleston, South Carolina, home for 23 years. I’m the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, coming 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.

I like:
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.)
house cleaning

Connect with Andra

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

Add To Live Forever to GoodReads

As part of the launch of this book, Andra Watkins actually walked the Natchez Trace, the first living person to do so since the end of the age of steam. Check out her Youtube Channel for more information about that, as well as her answers to reader questions.

My Thoughts

Like most of us, my knowledge of Meriwether Lewis is limited to the part of my American History class that discussed the Lewis & Clark trail. It’s a trail I’ve never followed, except for the segments of it that are traced by I-29 as you leave South Dakota and enter Iowa (going South). More than once, heading home from a trip to SoDak, my husband and I have stopped near the marker commemorating that journey to grab a soda, use the restroom (there’s a great independent gas station/cafe), and feed ducks.

Still, that semi-regular ritual is probably more than most people have as a connection to Mr. Lewis, and it was enough to make me really want to read Andra Watkin’s novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis.

Watkins, herself, describes the novel as a mishmash of genres and it really is. While most of it takes place in the 1970s’, as the previously-deceased Lewis escorts a small child from a dangerous life in New Orleans to the care of her musician-father in Nashville, we also see echoes of Lewis’s “real” life, in flashbacks and memories, including his original journey along the Natchez Trace.

It’s a cleverly woven story, combining threads of history with those of paranormal suspense, and enhancing them with characters who seem completely plausible, despite the fact that there is no way they could actually exist.

It also looks at the concept of immortality, and what that is. Does it mean literally living forever, or is it more important to be remembered for who you were and what you did?

You can read it just for pleasure, and you wouldn’t miss anything – it’s a great story, and the little girl at the center of it is written especially well – at times older than her nine years, and at times much younger – the way little girls and boys tend to be. You can also read it for the author’s insights into what it it means ‘to live forever.’

Goes well with Fresh-caught grilled catfish, hush puppies, and hand-squeezed lemonade (or any craft-brewed IPA)