From a supremely talented author comes this brilliant and inventive novel, set in Rome in four different centuries, that explores love in all its various incarnations and ponders elemental questions of good and evil, obedience and free will that connect four unforgettable lives.
Spanning two thousand years, The Everlasting follows four characters whose struggles resonate across the centuries: an early Christian child martyr; a medieval monk on crypt duty in a church; a Medici princess of Moorish descent; and a contemporary field biologist conducting an illicit affair.
Outsiders to a city layered and dense with history, this quartet separated by time grapple with the physicality of bodies, the necessity for sacrifice, and the power of love to sustain and challenge faith. Their small rebellions are witnessed and provoked by an omniscient, time-traveling Satan who, though incorporeal, nonetheless suffers from a heart in search of repair.
As their dramas unfold amid the brick, marble, and ghosts of Rome, they each must decide what it means to be good. Twelve-year old Prisca defiles the scrolls of her father’s library. Felix, a holy man, watches his friend’s body decay and is reminded of the first boy he loved passionately. Giulia de’ Medici, a beauty with dark skin and limitless wealth, wants to deliver herself from her unborn child. Tom, an American biologist studying the lives of the smallest creatures, cannot pinpoint when his own marriage began to die. As each of these conflicted people struggles with forces they cannot control, their circumstances raise profound and timeless questions at the heart of faith: What is our duty to each other, and what will God forgive?
“Only Katy Simpson Smith could have written a novel of such elegance, emotional power, and grace. The Everlasting, a quadruple love story spanning two millennia, is no less than the story of love itself—its frustrations and thrills, its blunders and transcendent glories. Meraviglioso.”
- Nathaniel Rich, author of King Zeno
“It is so very rare to find a writer whose blistering ambition when it comes to bringing history alive on the page is matched by an equal ability to build and break sentences in beautiful ways. Katy Simpson Smith is that writer, and The Everlasting -- a bold and ingenious novel spanning multiple time periods and characters with the ease of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas—is full of rich and brilliant ideas about Rome, home, free will, sin, sensation, and civilization. It’s an incredible achievement.”
- Jonathan Lee, author of High Dive
“The Everlasting is, quite simply, a wonder: a mesmerizing quartet of stories rendered in lucid, accessible prose. This is a thrillingly modern narrative that, shifting effortlessly from voice to voice, feels like a good old-fashioned story, the story of a city, one of the world’s oldest, wildest, sexiest (and, incidentally, my favorite on earth): Rome.”
- Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go
“In The Everlasting Katy Simpson Smith has magnificently re-imagined what a historical novel might be, and what our near-now might look like if we could only properly see. A child, a princess, a monk, a father—each storyline feels charged, accurate, uncanny and yet also touched by love. A distinctive and unostentatiously brilliant book.”
- Rivka Galchen, author of Little Labors and Atmospheric Disturbances
“In a rare display of lyrical erudition, Katy Simpson Smith’s gorgeous novel lets us feel the depth and density of history by showing us how every life is both an echo of the past and a relic of the future.”
- Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance
“Following her wonderful and wonderfully ambitious Free Men, Katy Simpson Smith tops herself with The Everlasting, exploring the mysteries of faith displacing fear, grace given to the undeserving, and the eternal question of forgiveness. She is at the forefront of the best young American writers working today.”
- Mark Richard, author of The Ice at the Bottom of the World
“A sparkling historical novel. Smith bounds through 2,000 years of history, following four indelible characters as they grapple with questions of faith, freedom, and transgressive love … Perhaps Smith's most appealing character is Satan, whose weary, ironic comments punctuate a narrative that shines with lyrical, translucent prose. A compelling, beautifully rendered tale of passion and pain.”
- Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Katy Simpson Smith has accomplished a spectacular feat in harnessing the emotional thrust of a sweeping epic within the space of the average novel. The Everlasting spans two millennia with such strong assurance, the narrative never falters, even when it ascends to the eternal plane. ... This novel is a wonder, building sensual prose toward a stirring inevitability."
- Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
“In this symphonic novel, Smith composes delicate variations on faith, love, and human transience in the eternal city … The further Smith digs into Rome’s layered past, the more captivating the story becomes. This is an ambitious novel whose characters must choose between sensual or spiritual love, gratification or self-abnegation, principled martyrdom or survival.”
"Strikingly original in its construction and settings ... a robustly earthy, strangely entrancing portrait of the Eternal City as the protagonists cope with the yearnings and frailties of the flesh."
"A rare book whose ambition is matched by its craft and emotional weight ... Smith’s prose is so precise and evocative that each narrative feels as precious as a holy relic ... The result of all these different threads is an exquisite tapestry of history, religion and heartbreak that’s perfect for historical fiction and fabulism fans alike."
"History, it’s said, is written by the winners — and that usually means men. But in the realm of historical fiction, women have plenty of opportunity to take their revenge, and right now Hilary Mantel isn’t the only one doing it. ... Katy Simpson Smith’s THE EVERLASTING could only have been set in Rome, where history’s layers are visible every day and, as one of her characters remarks, 'You cannot move forward … only up or down.' ... Eloquent storytelling."
"A gifted stylist, Smith crafts the novel with a greater emphasis on lyricism than on any particular plotline, spinning a complex, memorable tale of the vast universe contained in the life of a single city."
- Emily Choate, Chapter 16
"A tricky, ambitious examination of love in Rome that weaves between four centuries and follows four characters, asking big questions while finding grace in small lives."
- Entertainment Weekly, The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2020
"This ambitious historical novel spans some 2,000 years, following four characters in the legendary and ever-dramatic city of Rome. In the eternal city, Smith pits her characters—a monk, a biologist, a martyr, a “bastard princess”—up against our most elemental questions: of love and faith and time. Sometimes Satan wryly comments, which is the thing I’m looking forward to most of all."
- Lit Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2020
"Multiple storylines spanning two thousand years in Italy weave through this elegant feat of historical fiction that follows a child, a princess, a monk and a modern-day biologist. Satan is ever-present, offering his own churlish commentary."
- Newsweek, 40 Must-Read Books to Savor This Spring
"Smith, a talented historian and deft fiction writer, tells of violative love, iterations of faith, and echoes of freedom through a quartet of characters. ... A symphonic and timeless story."
"A novel about the endurance of the human spirit, love, desire, and the interdependence of every living organism across the millennia, could not arrive at a more appropriate time in this moment of panic and pandemic. The Everlasting is a lush, intellectually challenging, and sensuous pleasure. ... You are a bold writer, Katy Simpson Smith. Brava!"
- Scott Naugle, Clarion-Ledger
"The Everlasting shows a writer using all the tools available to her — and excelling at creating something transcendent. ... The emotional heart beating beneath the other layers is the novel’s return to the almost primordial power of love and faith."
- Jesse Davis, Memphis Flyer
"Smith carries off this ambitious machinery with grace by developing characters so compelling and recurring motifs (a fishhook and an eel) so well-employed that her efforts disappear into a seamless, though segmented, narrative that makes the reader both witness and time traveler. ... An absorbing story of emotional weight and human insight."
- Ellen Birkett Morris, Southern Review of Books
"The Everlasting is a wildly ambitious book. ... A cohesive, clear-eyed portrait of a city where love, lust, and immorality have been inextricably combined for centuries."
"The erudite, lyrical prose is bound to capture you on page one and convey you right through to the end on what might feel like wings."
- Kelly Fordon, 10 Unmissable Books from the "Flyover States," Electric Literature
"Pack your conversational Italian, a little Latin, some historical maps, and plenty of curiosity. Leave your squeamishness behind: true history’s not for sissies. Prepare to learn new words (ostracod, putridarium) in this deeply researched examination of the everlasting weirdness of love and religion. Prepare, also, to be dazzled by Smith’s virtuosity. ... This novel [is] worthy of the highest honor: rereading."
"In some sense we are joining a long and noble history of human suffering. And on the other side of suffering is always renewal."
- Sheltering with Maris Kreizman, Interview
"When I’m lying in a pool of my own tears, the hand I want on my back is not a priest’s but a sinner’s."
- BOMB, Interview by Mike Zapata
"Without summarizing it in any way, what would you say your book is about?" "The fallibility of true love. The infallibility of Satan."
- Lit Hub, 5 Authors, 7 Questions
"How can love make you better? How can it make you perform these sacrifices that are extraordinary?"
- Jackson Free Press, Interview
"'Write what you know' should be 'write what you want to know,' but 'write who you want to be' should be 'write who you are.'"
- Shelf Awareness, Reading With...
"Looking at the world in terms of 2,000-year chunks of time instead of two-week chunks of time is maybe a healthy way to approach this current crisis, too."
- Memphis Flyer, Interview
"I’m definitely not writing [laughs], or doing anything productive in that sense. But I have been so grateful that it’s springtime and New Orleans has never been more beautiful."
- Do Savannah, Interview
"In terms of my own spirituality, I'm such a believer in humanity that that's where I focus my energies in terms of faith."
- BookMark with Susan Larson, Interview
"So that's when I thought of this character who's stuck in the crypt all day and trying to figure out how to have fun down there."
- Writer's Voice with Francesca Rheannon, Interview
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