I am absolutely in love with this book. It may have a strange, multi-genre concept, but it works in the most wonderful of ways. Meriwether Lewis, of the famed Lewis and Clark died along the Natchez Trace trail 1809 in a most mysterious way; with two bullet wounds that was ruled a suicide. This is a historic fact, but what Andra Watkins has done with this fact is an incredibly amazing story. Upon his death, Meriwether Lewis, or Merry as we get to know him, believes he is a failure. He did not get to publish is expedition journals and he failed to excel in the governmental position he was given, the governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory, the position that James Wilkinson was kicked out of. Now, Merry is stuck in the Nowhere, a kind a purgatory where he must successfully complete a mission in the real world in order to move on. Merry has failed 12 missions, number 13 will be his last chance. Mission 13 concerns nine year old Emmaline Cagney in the year 1977. Emmaline has gone through a bitter custody battle where she saw her father ripped from her life by a rather odd Judge. Emmaline is forced to live by her mother's strict rules in a rather unusual setting where her mother wants her to serve tea to men with her dress unbuttoned. When the police and the Judge arrive to bust her mother's operation, Em's Aunt Bertie tells her to make a run for it and find her father in Nashville. Merry's quest is to take Emmaline from New Orleans to Nashville to reunite with her father, but he must outwit and outrun the strange Judge who want Emmaline for himself and face his own ghosts along the Natchez Trace.
First of all, Emmaline and Merry's characters and companionship are brilliant. Such a strange pair, but so well done. Andra Watkins writing takes you into the mindset and emotions of a nine year old girl and a thirty-five year old explorer so perfectly that it will break your heart. I had so many favorite quotes from this book to share;
"The door slammed, and it was like a clock stopped. Like I would never be older than that moment. Everything would always be 'Before Daddy' and 'After Daddy.' "
This is Em's defining moment, so perfectly wrapped up as a nine year old would see it. When Merry finds Em, his next assignment, she is desperately trying to outrun the Judge's men. He knows he must help her and gain her trust to complete his assignment. Merry has no idea what he is in for.
"I watched her face and cogitated the meaning behind her words. Imagined who-or what-her mother was, right before she told me. Not in so many words. A nine-year-old girl should never have to say her mother is a prostitute. But, she colored in the picture for me with broken crayons in damaged hues."
I loved the decision that the best way for Em and Merry to get to Nashville is to take the old Natchez Trace trail. Not only do we get to experience part of the trail, but Merry is forced, quite literally and figuratively to face old ghosts that he did not get to vanquish in his life. We also get to see a newly-painted portrait of just how great an explorer and outdoorsman Meriweather Lewis was, which brings him back to life in reader's eyes.
" The Trace was a tunnel through time. Sunlight cast shadows through the timber, and a squirrel scampered across the trail ahead of us. I breathed in the rich smell of earth and rotting leaves and tried to remember what it felt like to lead. To be fearless, decisive. To guide another person through the unknown."
The Judge's character, a villain for both Merry and Emmaline was a great addition. His use of the Nowhere and his quest to seek Emmaline is such a juxtaposition to Merry, that he is the perfect antagonist. Also, Emmaline's descriptions of him are so spot-on, that when I looked up the real James Wilkinson, he was just as I had pictured. Em and Merry's journey is is insightful, adventurous, dangerous, hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. I would think anyone who enjoys historical fiction, coming-of-age, paranormal or just plain, old good writing would enjoy this story.
Read the blurb:
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
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About the Author 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.
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.)
Andra Watkins Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads
More about Meriwether Lewis, his death and his world
Reading To Live Forever really made me want to discover more about Meriwether Lewis, his strange death and his rival James Wilkinson. So, I decided to do a bunch of research and share it with you here. Lewis and Clark are well enough known for their Corps of Discovery Expedition that crossed the US from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast. That's over 6000 miles of country that they walked! Lewis hunted and scouted along the way. leading the group of young men (at the average age of 29). While doing this, he took meticulous notes of the landscape, plants and animals throughout his 13 journals and maps. Their journey lasted 848 days.
After returning from their journey, Lewis was appointed Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. He replaced General James Wilkinson, who had been implicated in a plot to establish a separate nation in the Louisiana Territory along with Vice President Aaron Burr.
To this day, Meriwether Lewis' death along the Natchez Trace on October 10, 1809 remains a mystery. Lewis stopped at Grinder's Stand, a lodging cabin that night. There are separate accounts that said he arrived alone or that he arrived with servants. Mrs. Grinder was interviewed and said that she heard several shots and found Lewis crawling around asking for help. Lewis had several different pistols with him. They might have taken a lot of work to re-load. His death was ruled a suicide and believed by Thomas Jefferson and William Clark, even with all the flimsy evidence. Some believe that Meriwether was on his way to expose James Wilkinson's plot.
Today there is some push from Meriwether's descendants to exhume his body and try to find some truth behind his death, or at least figure out how tall he was and what color hair he had.
What do you think, death or suicide?
Thank you to these sites:
Smithsonian.com Symonsez.wordpress Mikewaltteacher.com
The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.
To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.
I will take readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me.
I’ll also have a daily YouTube segment where I answer reader questions about the book, my walk, my arguments—I mean—interactions with my dad, and whatever readers want to know. Ask me anything at
You might see yourself on this site during my tour.
See More of The Tour:
Virtual Book Tour Schedule Tuesday, April 1
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, April 2
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Thursday, April 3
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, April 4
Guest Post at Kincavel Korner
Monday, April 7
Review & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Tuesday, April 8
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, April 9
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, April 11
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, April 14
Review at Book Addict Katie
Tuesday, April 15
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Spotlight & Giveaway at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Spotlight & Giveaway at I’d So Rather be Reading
Wednesday, April 16
Interview at Kincavel Korner
Guest Post & Giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, April 18
Review at Book Drunkard
Monday, April 21
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, April 22
Review at Bibliotica
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, April 24
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Friday, April 25
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, April 28
Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, April 29
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Wednesday, April 30
Review at A Bookish Girl
Thursday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Friday, May 2
Review at Layered Pages
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews