Okay, imagine this: a man who lived forever. No, not a diety or some immortal creature. Just a regular dude who never died.
Aaron Thier's book Mr. Eternity deals with this exact premise: a protagonist named Daniel Defoe, and snippets of his life at different times over the course of 1,000 or so years. He's always an old man, he always has a companion named Quavo and a cat named Christopher Smart, but each section of his life is narrated by a different young woman or young man. The reader meets Daniel in 1560 on a Spanish expedition to find El Dorado, in 1750 on a plantation, in 2016 in Key West, in 2200 on a ship on the ruined east coast and in 2500 in the "Reunited States of America." Each narrative weaves throughout the other ones - the chapters are labelled by which time they take place in - and mirror each other. It took me a while to get going, because I first thought Daniel (Mr. Eternity) was narrating, but then I realized it was his companion in the time period that was narrating. So, for example, the 1560 chapters are narrated by a Native American woman who accompanies Daniel to translate for him and his fellow conquistador, and the 2016 chapters are narrated by a young man who is trying to make a documentary on Daniel. Kirkus reviews sums the narrative up nicely:
The tales explore the ugliness of slavery, the genocide of aboriginal peoples, and the ubiquity of greed. Throughout, Thier riffs on multiple themes: the evolution of history from fact to legend—"imagination and memory were all confounded one with the other"; how language constructs reality; and how, as the protagonists in our own stories, we "struggle with the meaning of story."
I think Kirkus is a bit too kind to Thier; I felt a bit lost at times, and felt like we never really got to know the titular Mr. Eternity. But, maybe that was the point? Not sure. Maybe landed a bit above my head.... Rating: ★★★