“’I love you Elsie Porter Ross,’ he says, and he bends down to the couch to kiss me. He is wearing a bike helmet and bike gloves. He grins at me. ‘I really love the sound of that.’”
Three pages into Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel, Forever Interrupted, and it looks as if Ben and Elsie have the rest of their lives in front of them. They were married less than two weeks ago and seem deliriously happy, the kind of couple that is meant-to-be. By the end of that same page however, Elsie is running barefoot in the street to the sound of sirens, and Ben’s body is being placed into an ambulance, Fruity Pebbles scattered in the street. He had gone out to get them for Elsie and was hit by a truck a block away from home. At the hospital Elsie meets her mother-in-law, Susan, for the first time…a woman who didn’t even know she existed. Their relationship starts off rocky – Susan can’t understand why her son had never told her about Elsie – but after a while they both realize just how much they need each other in order to heal, or, at least, to start healing.
The story alternates every few chapters from the six months that Elsie and Ben were dating to Elsie dealing with the grief of Ben’s death. At times her grief is so overpowering that it leaves you in tears – okay, more than half of the time…I cried a lot while reading this. Why read it then? Because, simply put, it is amazing; I honestly could not put it down. For all of the sad points of Elsie’s grieving it really is worth it…an unconventional love story of sorts. At one side you have Elsie and Ben. You get to watch their love story unfold – see their chance meeting over takeout pizza one rainy night, their first date where Ben caught Elsie trying to break into her house, how they were moved in together and married after only six months of knowing each other. Then you have Elsie and Susan. At first Susan seems mean and unreasonable (understandably), but she has more in common with Elsie than either of them realize. She also is one of my favorite characters; she is stronger than she knows. It’s a shame that it took Ben dying for them to meet (his reasons are valid…sort of), but something tells me that was the way it was supposed to be. Elsie needed a mother figure in her life, someone to love her having not been close to her parents, and Susan needed to be needed since both her husband and son were no longer alive.
I really loved Forever Interrupted, and there’s a good chance that I pick it up again soon. Perhaps the second time around I will cry a little less, then again, perhaps not. I leave you with a quote (because I love quotes). It is from a conversation between Elsie and Susan. Elsie had just gotten home from jail for punching someone at work. Her friend Ana had called Susan and brought Elsie home. Susan got there and Elsie started crying and fell apart, and this was Susan’s advice, right before she suggested that Elsie come spend time at her house to grieve. I thought it was very powerful…and it still brings me to tears reading it.
“…you have to find a way to remember him and forget him. You have to find a way to keep him in your heart and in your memories but do something else with your life. Your life cannot be about my son. It can’t.”