Today I’m starting a new feature on the blog – read-alikes. Recently, I read a book that reminded me of another book I had been meaning to read for a while. Both novels had a similar theme, but approached the topic in different ways. I read the second book and enjoyed drawing comparisons between the two, and seeing how the authors’ stylistic decisions and differing plots affected the stories. This isn’t the first time I’ve read one book and then ventured down the rabbit hole to find others covering the same topic or time period, so I thought I would start sharing these read-alikes here.
The two books I’m sharing today are How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, and Eternal Life by Dara Horn. In both of these novels, the main character lives for centuries, unable to age and die like normal humans. I read How to Stop Time first, after it finally came in on my library hold list (it was published in February). Here’s the publisher’s description:
Tom Hazard has just moved back his to London, his old home, to settle down and become a high school history teacher. And on his first day at school, he meets a captivating French teacher at his school who seems fascinated by him. But Tom has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
Unfortunately for Tom, the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time tells a love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live. It is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.
This book was really fun to read. I enjoy books that span a long period of time, and mention real historical events. This one touched upon many different time periods that Tom lived through, but didn’t get bogged down in too many historical details. The author mainly focused on the relationships Tom had with people throughout his centuries long life, and the loneliness that he felt, outliving everyone he loved. The writing was witty and fast paced, but underneath the humor were real themes of love and loss.
As I was reading, I remembered hearing about Eternal Life on one of the podcasts I listen to, and being interested in reading it. I liked the idea that this was a similar story to How to Stop Time, but told from the perspective of a female character. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. Her recent troubles―widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son―are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, and hundreds of children. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she’s tried everything to free herself, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever.
But as the twenty-first century begins and her children and grandchildren―consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering―develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out.
Gripping, hilarious, and profoundly moving, Eternal Life celebrates the bonds between generations, the power of faith, the purpose of death, and the reasons for being alive.
The details of this book differ significantly from How to Stop Time. Tom has a medical condition that causes him to age 1 year for every 15 years of actual time. So he will eventually die, after living for many centuries. Rachel however, made a vow to God to sacrifice her own death in order to save her infant son. So she lives many lives, dying each time just to awake again as an eighteen year old girl and start over. In both these books, the main character struggles the most with their relationships with their children, and how the children are affected by their parents’ longevity, even though they are not aware of it. Tom only has one child, who was lost to him many centuries ago. He thinks she may have the same condition as him, and therefore may still be alive in present day. Rachel, on the other hand, has had hundreds of children and had to watch many of them die as she has remained alive. At times in both books, the main characters want very badly to be “normal” and just die like other humans; other times they are grateful for their unique lives. Eternal Life didn’t have quite the humor or lightheartedness that How to Stop Time does, but I really enjoyed reading both of these books.
Do you know of any other read-alikes for these novels? If so, please share!