I’m feeling a little rusty in my reviewing skills and kicking myself for not getting this specific review written when I finished the book because I had thoughts and now, I have fewer. I should probably start by saying that I really, truly enjoyed For Never & Always by Helena Greer in much the same way I did reading her previous book Season of Love. For Never & Always is also a queer romance which unpacks big emotions, specifically grief and trauma responses and like its predecessor it’s also a very Jewish story told around several holidays. This book is populated with rich, multi-faceted characters who are going through it in major ways.
For Never & Always is a second chance/secret marriage/marriage in trouble romance. Which is a lot right off the bat. The book’s main couple is Hannah and Levi, and they must deal with the fallout of knowing that the love they share was not enough to make their relationship work, but also knowing what four years without the other one feels like. With this knowledge they must decide if they can rebuild their relationship in a healthy way that acknowledges each of their truths, and do they want to? Levi does, from the outset. He is back at Carrigan’s, a place he ran from for very understandable reasons, to do just that. But Hannah isn’t sure. Carrigan’s is both her most treasured safe place, but also where she is literally trapped thanks to her anxiety (she’s working on it). Levi calls a Shenanigan (basically a bet that must be honored) and negotiates with Hannah that he has five dates and working at Carrigan’s for three months for a major wedding booking, to convince her to stay married. If at the end of those dates Hannah isn’t convinced, they’ll get divorced.
Something I appreciate so much in Helena Greer’s writing is that she has her characters reckon with their choices. We are all where we are in the world on any given day based on the accumulation of choices, decisions, and happenstances that led to right now. For the characters inhabiting the greater Carrigan’s All Year environs there’s a lot of emotional baggage in both the place and its previous owner Cass, and everyone had a different experience with her, and importantly Greer acknowledges that even if we loved someone, and they loved us, they can have done damage that must be reckoned with. Each of the book’s lead and main supporting characters took Cass Carrigan’s worldview and pronouncements as gospel – to some extent – in their lives and For Never & Always really unpacks what processing that kind of outsized impact is like. This one is also chockful of representation that really matters to me that I don’t exactly want to get in to because I think discovering some of those details in real time with the book is important.
Do read this, if you think it is in your wheelhouse, and not just because of that beautiful Leni Kauffman cover – but it does help!