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The Forever Year    by Ronald Anthony order for
Forever Year
by Ronald Anthony
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

If the protagonist were younger, I would call this a coming of age story, but it is more of a coming of maturity tale. Jesse Sienna is a thirty-two-year-old freelance writer, the lastborn of a set of high achiever siblings. In The Forever Year, Jesse matures in his profession, his love life, and in his relationship with his elderly father.

Given that his dad was sixty when Jesse was ten, he feels that he missed something. In his love life, Jesse has low expectations, having been shot by Cupid and left bleeding several times in the past. The father, Mickey Sienna, is a marvellous character, wise and irascible at the same time. As the novel opens, eighty-three-year-old Mickey, still adjusting to the loss of his wife, accidentally sets his kitchen on fire. This causes a crisis for his contentious children. The older siblings decide that an 'assisted living community' is the answer, ignoring Jesse's notion that his father should live with him. But Jesse has his way, with help from his girlfriend Marina, who seems to be the perfect woman for him, if he could only believe that it would last.

Jesse grabs this 'chance for a little substance' in the relationship with his father, and moves him in, each of them adjusting to a housemate with some difficulty. When Mickey meets Marina, he is obviously enchanted and, like Shahrazad in The Thousand and One Nights, begins to dole out to his son chapters in the tale of a 'Great Love' of his own life, that happened before he met Jesse's mother. Jesse and Marina, with whom he shares the story, both wonder why it is so emotionally draining for the old man who, telling it, is transformed from an 'eighty-three-year-old grumbler, to a lovestruck young man with dreams in his eyes.' Jesse takes Mickey's story as confirmation that all loves die, which affects his relationship with Marina.

I enjoyed The Forever Year very much, in particular the depiction of the old man, Mickey, and the development of Jesse's relationship with an ageing parent and with elder siblings. It feels real, will keep you glued to the pages, and will touch your heart.

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