THE FOREVER YEAR
Ronald Anthony


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Forge, May 2003
Review by Joy Calderwood

Mickey Sienna has the choice of being packed off by his children into an old age home, or accepting an invitation to move in with the son he hardly knows. Adapting to living with Jesse, he is horrified at the way his son is running his life, especially treating a wonderful young woman like a piece of disposable furniture. He decides to make his son rethink things before it is too late.

To Jesse Sienna, the chance to have his father live with him is the chance to finally, really, have a father. The youngest in a loud family of overachievers, Jesse’s style was formed by being ignored. When Mickey, intending to teach his "moron" son an important lesson, begins to tell Jesse the story of his youthful love for a young woman named Gina, Jesse can use it to reinforce his habitual pessimism, or he can learn something constructive out of it. In the meantime, he has decisions to make on a writing career which has become unsatisfying. Jesse is at a turning point in his life, and for Jesse, hope is dangerous.

I had better make it clear immediately, THE FOREVER YEAR is a cautionary tale. We are not meant to like Jesse’s attitudes, but we are meant to understand them. With that proviso, we can allow ourselves to enjoy a very human portrait of two men dealing with very human issues. We can even understand why the admirable Marina accepts the kind of relationship Jesse has to offer. This makes it the more surprising when Jesse’s way of twisting everything to serve his world view becomes a running gag. When one such incident finally went over the top, I burst out laughing. It seems odd to say that I lost my "willing suspension of disbelief" at that point, because I know perfectly well that in real life, Jesse’s attitudes are not uncommon.

For me, it was author Ronald Anthony’s smooth writing style that made THE FOREVER YEAR readable. The story flows across the pages as easily as time unfolding. The author irresistibly captures the bewitchments of Mickey’s relationship with Gina, and of Jesse’s with Marina. Jesse’s obsession with a patch of skin on Marina’s neck is a sensual experience, and Mickey’s time in Italy with Gina is intoxication. Unfortunately, it is equally realistic when Jesse warns his father not to expect anything to grow in the garden they have just planted, because he doesn’t want Mickey to be disappointed. That was the point where I lost all patience with Jesse.

The best use of THE FOREVER YEAR would be to place it in the hands of a pessimist and say, "Read this." The person should then be left alone for six months, as in Pessimists Anonymous, to decide whether he or she can learn to take danger in stride and look beyond it.

May 2003 Original Version Published by WOR

 

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