"Yet there is timelessness. I've felt it.
Why can't I be like the sea?"
Why can't I be like the sea?"
REVIEWS AND OPINIONS
Gorkem Y rated it liked it
"It is hard to thing to grow old. It is not easy as one's limb's grow stiffer, each function less exact when each though is more memory than hope. Yet so go the days, that are the ghosts of what was with the dull recollection of a change that came, and we were no longer young. "
Probably this is one of the most poetic and emotional descriptions regarding getting older that I've ever read. Mr. Van Norman sets very magical words to his readers to reconsider whether they have already pursued their dreams as elders or have already been pushing harder in order to catch them.
Immortal Water is a book that is entirely written about digging out diametrical perceptions of our lives. The writer reflects this perception between two characters: Ross Porter, living in the modern times and Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish conquistador. After Ross Porter's retirement, she starts to contemplate his life from the beginning to end along with the accompanying story of Juan Ponce.
To me, I really respected the writer's idea to create a very unique and original idea with the metaphor of water and discovering life as an individual in the light of the depths of history. However, this poetic and very creative style starts to getting hard to figure out between to protagonists' worlds and disables the first excitement of reader .
All in all, Immortal Water is really a good book to read very divergent experiences about our livese. It pushes to reader to reckon with their own lives with very poetic book. If you are into reading different and a unique book, I highly recommend this. I am finishing my review with these amazing words:
"The settled life is the hardest off all: knowing you've stopped by the roadside, knowing your journey is done. Still, even among old men there are dreamers."
Have a great reading!
From Florida Friends:
Immortal Water by Brian Van Norman provides a portrayal of the human fear of aging. The novel depicts two men from two time periods: the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon in the 16th Century and a retired teacher, Ross Porter, in the 21st, both in the midst of mid-life crises. In parallel plots the two men become obsessed with a search for the mythical Fountain of Youth. These protagonists sparkle into fullness as they struggle to remain vital while age steals their powers away.
Exiled by Diego Colon (Viceroy of the Spanish Indies) Juan Ponce attempts to recover his youth and reinstate himself. He follows a mystic native woman, Mayaimi, who tells him she will lead him to a magical water in the land of her birth, La Florida. As he voyages toward his destination Juan Ponce keeps a journal, writing about his past, wondering how he has failed.
Ross Porter visits Florida in retirement with his wife, Emily. Ross feels too young to have retired. His wife is dying from incurable cancer. He is thoughtful as he reflects on his past, fearful of his future. When Emily dies he mistakes her last words for a sign. He must find a particular water… the Fountain of Youth… and disrupts his friendships and family ties as he embarks on his strange search. He too is led by a woman: a young, free spirited Angela Sayer who wishes to become an eco-tourism guide through Florida’s wild places.
Immortal Water is poetic, intelligent and timely. Its theme reflects the fears of many middle aged individuals in a society where youth is venerated. With an elegant, convincing style Mr. Van Norman leads his readers on a magical journey.
By Deborah Weisberg:
An adrenalizing neoteric author who is definitely worth notice, Brian Van Norman has done it again. Following his first novel, “The Betrayal Path", he has fired up yet another captivating book that is nearly impossible to put down.
Mr. Van Norman possesses that rare gift of weaving original stories that both galvanize and seduce his readers. Set aside a weekend and climb into a comfy chair to escape into Brian van Norman’s latest intoxicating historical fiction!
In his latest novel, “Immortal Water”, Van Norman seamlessly braids the antediluvian expeditions of the declining 15th century Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon with his 21st century tormented counterpart, retired history teacher Ross Porter, to innovatively parallel the profoundly personal explorations of each main character.
We are originally introduced to Ponce de Leon through his secret journal; an insightful chronicle of de Leon’s most private thoughts and experiences. Van Norman cleverly guides the reader by his lyrical threading of the emotional restlessness afflicting de Leon throughout his long and dysphoric career. We candidly sympathize with the aging Spanish explorer’s agonizing fall from political grace, the loss of his wife and his wretchedness at being ostracized by his family and his friends.
In these journals we are also first acquainted with de Leon’s paradoxical albatross, the beautiful but savage and mysterious Calusa native guide, Mayaimi. We begin to understand the crucible de Leon carries; the despairing dichotomy of a life gone disastrously sour yet embracing the insular ambition to prolong that life. Haven’t we all yearned for that second chance, a second miraculously gifted voyage?
In a modern day parallel we meet Ross Porter. An Everyman who is intensely anticipating his own exploration in his aging years, content to be shared with Emily: his partner, his wife, his anchor. Porter is ultimately propelled into obsession by the cataclysmic loss of his cherished Emily. We commiserate as Porter’s vanishing acumen is set wildly adrift by his loss. As it is with Ponce de Leon, Ross Porter is also burdened with misery and a passionate quest to discover the means of prolonging his life.
With “Immortal Water’ Van Norman has hit the nail right on the head in defining the anguish of loss: loss of loved ones, the loss of self-worth and the deep bereavement of lost youth. Van Norman artfully elucidates the futile pursuit of mankind’s capricious hunt for more time, more chances, by using the ultimate backdrop of unobtainable human vanities, the eternally quixotic Fountain of Youth.
Van Norman has again proven his ingenious ability to actualize his characters with prolific creativity and marvelously exquisite prose; intimately familiarizing his readers with each well-developed personality he crafts into life. As well, quite appreciatively, van Norman’s quotations at the head of each chapter are carefully conscripted to enlighten the reader’s unfolding perceptions.
In both of his current historical fiction novels, Mr. Van Norman’s intensive research of his subject material is unquestionably the skillful support which leads to fortifying his complex character development. Entertaining and educational!
With rising anticipation, I am looking forward to Brian Van Norman’s next novel. What will he astonish us with next?
By Kelly Ryan
A Most Beautiful Letter:
Kelly Ryan to Brian Van Norman, Author
Just wanted to let you know my almost 90 year old father just read Immortal Water and it moved him deeply. My mother passed away 3 years ago of lung cancer and they spent a lot of time in Florida. He just really connected with the characters and felt it was one of the best books he has ever read, and he has always been an avid reader. He lives in a seniors’ complex and will be suggesting the book to everyone there. Thank you for giving him that joy.
(My deepest thanks to Kelly for allowing me to publish this.)
IN THE MARGINS BY CHUCK ERION
In the Margins book column for the Waterloo Region Record Saturday, Apr 6, 2018
By Chuck Erion, former co-owner of Words Worth Books, Waterloo. The author will be signing books at Words Worth Books on April 26th from 7 until 9 pm.
Immortal Water, Brian Van Norman, Guernica Editions, 358 pages, $25, paperback
There was a book several years ago with the photo of an elderly but very muscular man on the cover entitled Growing Old is Not for Sissies. It came to mind as I was reading Immortal Water, a novel in two alternating parts, both concerned with the ravages of aging. And the quest for a fountain of youth. I read it while on a winter break in Victoria, a city with a high proportion of seniors, including some cousins of mine who are coping with vision loss and other indignities of aging. Then came news that a long-ago acquaintance has dementia. Wouldn’t we all be eager to find that immortal water?
Full disclosure: the author is a friend. I was hesitant when he asked me to review his (second) novel, aware that if I didn’t like it he'd be disappointed. We agreed to face that risk and I’m relieved to say I do like it.
The two ‘streams’ of the novel, (yes there’s a lot of water metaphors here), are Ponce de Leon’s final voyage to Florida in the 1500s and Ross Porter’s trip there with his dying wife Emily in the present day. All voyages, particularly those involving hardships, are voyages of self-discovery. Both characters grapple with physical challenges as they crave a source of never-ending youth, only to emerge battered but wiser and more self-accepting.
Van Norman has written historical fiction before; The Betrayal Path, about espionage in 1759 Quebec, came out in 2012. He clearly researched the history of Ponce de Leon. He is leading an expedition of conquistadors back to Florida, while sharing his bed with a Calusa (indigenous) woman some believe is a witch. Mayaimi has her own plot: to lure her lover, with promises of a fountain of youth, to his death deep in the mangrove swamps.
In the contemporary stream, Porter is a retired history teacher who drives with his wife, in the final stages of breast cancer, to spend their last days together in Florida. Like many males, Ross is unable to share his feelings about the pending loss of Emily. He gets caught up in reading local history on the indigenous tribes of Florida and their first, often genocidal, contacts with Europeans. This research becomes a distraction, and after his wife dies back in Ontario, an obsession. Maybe there really is a fountain of youth and he returns to search for it, aided by the young woman librarian who first helped him.
Juan Ponce de Leon is also grieving, not so much for his unloving wife, but for the power and respect he held after his earlier voyages claiming Florida and several islands for Spain. Palace politics have stripped him as governor of Puerto Rico and the priest on board the galleon is threatening to report him for any malfeasance from the mission, to declare new lands for the king. The danger for a double novel like this is that the parallels can start to interfere with the separate stories. Novelists need to trust readers to make the connections, or not. Too many crossed T's feels contrived. I was somewhat distracted by nautical terms in the Leon story that sent me to the dictionary (martinet, spume, hammock for hummock, for example.) The challenge in writing historical fiction is to use anachronisms without losing the reader. But these are quibbles.
Immortal Water is a satisfying read of intertwined tales, especially for those “of a certain age" dealing with their or their loved one’s mortality.
Go ahead... be honest.