Close cookie details

This site uses cookies. Learn more about cookies.

OverDrive would like to use cookies to store information on your computer to improve your user experience at our Website. One of the cookies we use is critical for certain aspects of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but this could affect certain features or services of the site. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, click here to see our Privacy Policy.

If you do not wish to continue, please click here to exit this site.

Hide notification

  Main Nav
The History of Living Forever
Cover of The History of Living Forever
The History of Living Forever
A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow

A chemistry student falls for his teacher and uncovers a centuries-old quest for the elixir of life

The morning after the death of his first love, Conrad Aybinder receives a bequest. Sammy Tampari was Conrad's lover. He was his teacher. And, it turns out, he was not just a chemist, but an alchemist, searching for a mythic elixir of life. Sammy's death was sudden, yet he somehow managed to leave twenty years' worth of his notebooks and a storage locker full of expensive, sometimes baffling equipment in the hands of his star student. The notebooks contain cryptic "recipes," but no instructions; they tell his life story, but only hint at what might have caused his death. And Sammy's research is littered with his favorite teaching question: What's missing?

As Conrad pieces together the solution, he finds he is not the only one to suspect that Sammy succeeded in his quest. And if he wants to save his father from a mysterious illness, Conrad will have to make some very difficult choices.

A globe-trotting, century-spanning adventure story, Jake Wolff's The History of Living Forever takes us from Maine to Romania to Easter Island and introduces a cast of unforgettable characters—drug kingpins, Big Pharma flunkies, centenarians, boy geniuses, and even a group of immortalists masquerading as coin collectors. It takes us deep into the mysteries of life—from first love to first heartbreak, from the long pall of grief to the irreconcilable loneliness of depression to the possibility of medical miracles, from coming of age to coming out. Hilarious, haunting, heart-busting, life-affirming, it asks each of us one of life's essential questions: How far would you go for someone you love?

A chemistry student falls for his teacher and uncovers a centuries-old quest for the elixir of life

The morning after the death of his first love, Conrad Aybinder receives a bequest. Sammy Tampari was Conrad's lover. He was his teacher. And, it turns out, he was not just a chemist, but an alchemist, searching for a mythic elixir of life. Sammy's death was sudden, yet he somehow managed to leave twenty years' worth of his notebooks and a storage locker full of expensive, sometimes baffling equipment in the hands of his star student. The notebooks contain cryptic "recipes," but no instructions; they tell his life story, but only hint at what might have caused his death. And Sammy's research is littered with his favorite teaching question: What's missing?

As Conrad pieces together the solution, he finds he is not the only one to suspect that Sammy succeeded in his quest. And if he wants to save his father from a mysterious illness, Conrad will have to make some very difficult choices.

A globe-trotting, century-spanning adventure story, Jake Wolff's The History of Living Forever takes us from Maine to Romania to Easter Island and introduces a cast of unforgettable characters—drug kingpins, Big Pharma flunkies, centenarians, boy geniuses, and even a group of immortalists masquerading as coin collectors. It takes us deep into the mysteries of life—from first love to first heartbreak, from the long pall of grief to the irreconcilable loneliness of depression to the possibility of medical miracles, from coming of age to coming out. Hilarious, haunting, heart-busting, life-affirming, it asks each of us one of life's essential questions: How far would you go for someone you love?

Available formats-
  • Kindle Book
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Subjects-
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:

Recommended for you

About the Author-
  • Jake Wolff was born and raised in Maine. He received an MFA in fiction from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a Ph.D. in creative writing from Florida State University. His stories and essays have appeared in journals such as Tin House, One Story, and American Short Fiction. He lives in Orlando, Florida, where he is an assistant professor of English at the University of Central Florida. The History of Living Forever is his first novel.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 29, 2019
    The search for an eternal life potion weaves through raw emotion, scientific curiosity, and heartbreak in Wolff’s intoxicating debut. On the first day of his senior year of high school in Maine in 2010, 16-year-old Conrad learns his chemistry teacher and secret lover Sammy Tampari has died in an apparent suicide. Conrad comes home from school dazed, only to find a package from Sammy that contains journals and a key to storage unit. He discovers that Sammy has long been testing an immortality elixir on himself. Conrad enlists best friend RJ to duplicate the substance in hopes of healing his father’s fatal liver disease and RJ’s sister’s muscular dystrophy. Conrad reads, in Sammy’s journals, about Sammy’s depressed childhood and globetrotting search for ingredients first with his overly forgiving girlfriend Catherine and then with boyfriend Sadiq. Wolff blends the journal entries and other flashbacks with ease, incorporating vignettes of historical figures who were drawn to the search for eternal life, as well as the future, and of Conrad’s 40th birthday and his husband’s brain cancer diagnosis. The epic sweep and sly humor in the midst of enormous anguish will remind readers of Michael Chabon’s work as they relish this heady exploration of grief, alchemy, and love.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2019

    DEBUT Wolff's first novel is many things, but it is mainly a story of the love of teenager Conrad for his high school chemistry teacher Sammy. Besides being lovers, Sammy and Conrad are collaborators on an experiment to find the elixir of life. When Sammy unexpectedly dies by suicide, Conrad begins an urgent search for not only the elixir but also the meaning of Sammy's life and death. As Conrad investigates, Sammy's past merges with Conrad's present. The many flashbacks and multiple time lines, plus the historical asides into prior misguided attempts to find the secret of immortality, create a variegated panorama that risks confusing readers. The story of the teenage Sammy parallels that of the teenage Conrad, and readers will have to stay on their toes to differentiate them. Wolff's narrative moves forward to a conclusion that's anticlimactic and grounded, disappointingly, in reality; that so many intelligent people sought out the elixir seems implausible. But the story isn't really about that. It's about growing, developing relationships, and learning to live. VERDICT A noteworthy first novel. [See Prepub Alert, 12/3/18.]--Michael Russo, Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2019
    A gay teenager with a traumatic past takes up his dead lover's quest for the elixir of life. Conrad, the on-and-off narrator of Wolff's debut novel, lost his mother to a fire at age 10, and soon afterward his father descended into alcoholism, liver disease, and furious gloom. When the novel opens, he's a high school senior living with his aunt, having an affair with his chemistry teacher, and working on a science project about electroshock and memory in rats. When the teacher, Sammy Tampari, is found dead--from suicide? a drug overdose? an experiment gone wrong?--Conrad is pulled ever deeper into an alchemical plot he had not known he was part of, seeking a medical treatment that will save his father by vanquishing death itself. The novel straddles a few decades surrounding the present, ducking back to Sammy's youth as a depressed gay teenager himself and forward into Conrad's future as a scientist worried about his husband's brain-cancer diagnosis. The narration shifts around between first person and third, the point of view alternates between Conrad and Sammy, and the settings include Maine, New York City, Romania, and Easter Island as strongmen, drug dealers, and pharmaceutical researchers join the hunt for a panacea that can cross the blood-brain barrier. More than just a briskly plotted thriller, the book is a meditation on love and loss. The characters' obsession with the elixir brings home the parallels between eternal life and death: Both are a kind of certainty. The best part is the author's figurative descriptions, which teeter between quips and revelations. Conrad describes his aunt's concern for him: "I knew that...the way she treated me, was called 'love, ' even though it made me feel small and different and as if I would never be loved by anyone the way I was meant to be (like someone who deserved love and didn't simply need it, like a blood transfusion)." When his lover apologizes, "I had steeled myself to stay angry, but his voice was a snake-bite. Happiness filled me like venom." Sammy contemplates his own mental state: "The real torture of mental illness is this lingering sensation that normalcy is a thought away, that if only you were strong enough, you could think your way out of it." This beautifully written, carefully plotted, intelligent debut is a melancholy pleasure.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Title Information+
  • Publisher
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Kindle Book
    Release date:
  • OverDrive Read
    Release date:
  • EPUB eBook
    Release date:
Digital Rights Information+
  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

Status bar:

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Checkouts page to manage your titles.

Close

You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Checkouts?

Close

Recommendation Limit Reached.

You've reached the maximum number of titles you can recommend at this time. You can recommend up to 5 titles every 10 day(s).

Close

Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend your library consider adding this title to the Digital Collection.

Close

Enhanced Details

Close
Close

Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.

Close

Permissions

Close

The OverDrive Read format of this eBook has professional narration that plays while you read in your browser. Learn more here.

Close

Holds

Total holds:


Close

Restricted

Some format options have been disabled. You may see additional download options outside of this network.

Close

You've reached your library's checkout limit for digital titles.

To make room for more checkouts, you may be able to return titles from your Checkouts page.

Close

Excessive Checkout Limit Reached.

There have been too many titles checked out and returned by your account within a short period of time.

Try again in several days. If you are still not able to check out titles after 7 days, please contact Support.

Close

You have already checked out this title. To access it, return to your Checkouts page.

Close

This title is not available for your card type. If you think this is an error contact support.

Close

An unexpected error has occurred.

If this problem persists, please contact support.

Close

Close

NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

Close
Buy it now
and help our library WIN!
The History of Living Forever
The History of Living Forever
A Novel
Jake Wolff
Choose a retail partner below to buy this title for yourself.
A portion of this purchase goes to support your library.
Clicking on the 'Buy It Now' link will cause you to leave the library download platform website. The content of the retail website is not controlled by the library. Please be aware that the website does not have the same privacy policy as the library or its service providers.
Close
Close

There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.

Close
Barnes & Noble Sign In |   Sign In

You will be prompted to sign into your library account on the next page.

If this is your first time selecting “Send to NOOK,” you will then be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

The first time you select “Send to NOOK,” you will be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

You can read periodicals on any NOOK tablet or in the free NOOK reading app for iOS, Android or Windows 8.

Accept to ContinueCancel