Forever, Or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter

A review of the children's novel Forever, Or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter.

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Forever, Or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter is the story of Flora and Julian, two siblings who have been in the care system almost all their lives. They’ve finally been adopted by Emily and her husband, but when Emily falls pregnant, Flora and Julian embark on a journey to find out where they came from, trying to reconcile their past with their fear that no family will ever truly be their forever home.

The story follows Flora and her younger brother Julian as they track back through their past and visit previous care placements to try and discover more about themselves. The siblings have a theory that they were never born, and Emily is determined to prove them wrong. Over the course of the story Flora and Julian have to accept a lot of change, both in their relationships with each other and their family members, and in their environment and family situation.

This book is an emotional read. It is narrated by eleven-year-old Flora, and successfully navigates the complicated feelings of a child who has been through severe emotional trauma without ever feeling facile or insincere. This book is aimed at a younger audience, but it is remarkable how intense and engaging it is, no matter the reader’s age. Although the subject matter is heavy, it is neither too dark for its intended audience, nor too simplistic for older or adult readers.

Flora’s voice is honest, clear, and unflinching. It is noteworthy as well that although Flora’s narrative comes with the limitations of any first-person story, particularly one told by a child, the story never suffers as a result of this. There is a level of dramatic irony at play, particularly with the adult secondary characters, where even though Flora isn’t entirely aware of all the dynamics in the relationships and conversations she witnesses, we can clearly see into the lives of the people around her. It gives a very real, layered feeling to the story.

The book doesn’t have a traditionally satisfying ending, but anything more than what happens would feel glib and unrealistic. Carter carefully balances dramatic resolution while avoiding a saccharine happy ever after, and the result is a powerful moving book suitable for children and adults alike.

Nic James thinks too much and always talks over movies.

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