Title: Forever, Interrupted
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Romance, Chick Lit, Contemporary
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Extent: 352 pages
Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.
Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.
Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.
Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.
Forever, Interrupted seeks to answer a question that most—if not all—of us really, really don’t want to answer: What do you do when you lose the love of your life… forever? I picked up this book dreading it a little bit because holy crap, that’s one of my worst fears ever.
To her credit, however, Reid tried her best given the circumstances. Forever, Interrupted is told in alternating chapters between the past and the present, switching between the current timeline after Ben just died and his six-month courtship with Elsie. By and large, I think this system of storytelling really works and gives the impact of an emotional roller-coaster. We get to deal with Elsie’s grief at the same time as we get to deal with her love for Ben—one chapter we’re feeling that punch in the gut and the other we’re finding these two cute.
Yet for a book that’s ultimately character-driven, this one actually disappointed me in terms of characterisation, though I fully admit that this could just be my personal taste. I found Ben too saccharinely sweet, too cheesy and also too idealistic to the point where I couldn’t help but question his feelings for Elsie (and Elsie’s feelings for him).
I also didn’t really like Elsie as a character. I found her generally rude, entitled and self-centred—she lashes out at people who care instead of relying on them and takes her extremely patient, extremely understanding best friend for granted. Even in the past chapters, before Ben’s death, I also found her unpleasant a character. She got jealous way too easily and was a bit… naïve? She just didn’t really connect with me.
Another of my pet peeve was how Elsie supposedly is more well-to-do than her friends because she is a librarian. I can’t speak for all librarians but I do work at a library supplier, and to my knowledge, librarian jobs don’t pay extremely well. I found it unrealistic that ‘[her] starting salary was higher than the rest of [her] peers’. A little bit of research tells me that librarian jobs typically pay an average amount, and they’re even harder to come by now given that electronic resources are easier than ever to find—not at all a cushiony job like how the book makes it seem like.
But I digress. Now, by nature I’m cynical of insta-love relationships—I think it only works great in very specific instances, where the characters involved are well-developed and their relationship is later built on other (stronger?) foundations. Unfortunately, one of our main characters is dead, so obviously it’s harder to develop him in real time. The alternating chapters helped in telling Ben and Elsie’s story, but ultimately their relationship didn’t charm me.
Their love for each other just wasn’t believable to me and instead came across as two young people being extremely impulsive with their life decisions. This, to me, was the biggest mental block that kept me from really connecting with Forever, Interrupted: because I didn’t believe in their love, all the subsequent emotions felt superficial.
But not Susan’s. For a book with no explicit antagonist, she definitely served as one, at least in the first half of the book, but she really shone in the second half. It’s often said that losing a child—losing someone who’s supposed to outlive you by nature—is one of the most heartbreaking things that could ever happen, and for me, Susan’s grief for losing Ben was more cutting than anyone else’s in the book. I only wish that we got to hear from her perspective as well—I think it would make Forever, Interrupted more dynamic and well-rounded.
I actually really struggled with giving this book a rating. Despite its shortcomings, Forever, Interrupted is an emotionally tough and engaging read. I didn’t connect with the majority of the characters, but I respect the multi-faceted way Reid approaches the themes of grief, family, and relationships, and I’m definitely not blind to what she’s trying to say: some people are meant to be in your life for a really short while only, but that doesn’t make them any less important—it doesn’t make what you have any less.
Forever, Interrupted isn’t a love story. It’s a story about loss and grief, about accepting and healing, and it’s one that holds a heavy message.
For the first time since Ben died, I look like a widow. For the first time since I lost him, I feel like I recognize the person in the mirror. There I am, grief-stricken and un-whole. Widowed. It’s such a relief to see myself this way. I have felt so insecure in my widowness that seeing myself look like a widow comforts me. I want to run to Susan and say, “Look at me. Don’t I look like a woman that lost her husband?” If I look the part, everyone will believe me.