I Could Live Here Forever: A Novel
“Leah’s gradual self-discovery of her own worth . . . breathes like a fresh new life.”
What happens after a young woman finds herself flirting under the fluorescent lighting of a grocery store with a handsome guy whom she feels is too far out of her dating pool? In Hanna Halperin’s I Could Live Here Forever, the light quickly fades and an unpredictable darkness enters protagonist Leah Kempler’s life in the form of love interest Charlie Nelson.
Initially fun-loving and attentive to Leah, he also admits to her shortly after they begin seeing each other that he is a recovering heroin addict.
And while this admission from Charlie gives her pause, and she does rather quickly and briefly enjoy the bed and company of a new love interest, Charlie and his text messages and emotional neediness draws Leah back to him like a drug. Leah soon ditches the stable college student she found on Tinder (Leah herself is an MFA student and they both attend a university in Wisconsin). Instead she seeks the seductive trapdoor feeling of life with the ever-elusive Charlie who vanishes spontaneously from her life, then reappears and demands her attention whenever he wants.
Leah also ignores the warning signs that her relationship with Charlie is built on a foundation as flimsy as his reassurances to her that he isn’t using drugs again. She makes excuses for his erratic behavior and is unable to separate her own life from his. Most people call it codependency. For Leah, she blindly and stubbornly sees it as love, “I was starting to get tired of the dynamic, but I always said yes. Despite my frustration, he was my favorite person to spend time with.”
Leah, for her part, is broken herself, abandoned during her childhood by her mother whom she always assumed would be coming back for her. Naïve in many ways, even as a young adult, later in the narrative, Leah finally realizes, “I was waiting all this time for her to reject me again. But by her not showing up all these years she was already rejecting me.”
Perhaps it is left up to readers whether they will be interested in the secondary storyline in the novel: the ins and outs of graduate students in a writing program, the stories they write for class, and how they all vie to impress a curt well-known literary agent who pays them a visit. This is Leah’s other world, the one she should be grounded in and focused on.
At times, Halperin’s I Could Live Here Forever loses tension and immediacy in Leah’s day-to-day life at the university. While Leah’s self-destructive relationship with Charlie is the dark heart of the narrative, it is Leah’s gradual self-discovery of her own worth that breathes like a fresh new life. This, in the end, is a relationship well worth reading about.