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Forever, Interrupted: A Novel
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Paperback : 352 pages
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3 members have read this book
“Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like ...
This heartrending debut novel weaves a beautiful love story with an homage to the redemptive power of female friendship.
“Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.”
Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.
Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.
Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.
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Discussion QuestionsSPOILER ALERT!
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The plot of Forever, Interrupted isn’t strictly linear and, instead, alternates between Ben and Elsie’s courtship and Elsie’s mourning. How did this affect your reading experience? Why do you think the author made this narrative choice?
2. At various points throughout the novel, Elsie and Ben voice the concern that perhaps their relationship is progressing too quickly. Before reading this, would you have thought that two people could be ready to marry after six months of dating? Did Forever, Interrupted affect your opinion one way or another?
3. Romantic love may seem like the driving force behind Forever, Interrupted, but in what ways does friendship also shape the novel? In particular, how does seeing Elsie in the role of a friend—and not just as Ben’s girlfriend and wife—add to our understanding of her? What do her interactions with Ana, as well as with Mr. Callahan, reveal about her as a character?
4. Elsie is furious with Ana when she tries to give her a copy of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s memoir about losing her husband, and laments, “My job is books, information. I based my career on the idea that words on pages bound and packaged help people. That they make people grow, they show people lives they’ve never seen. They teach people about themselves, and here I am, at my lowest point, rejecting help from the one place I always believed it would be” (p. 164). Do you share Elsie’s perspective about the power of books? Why might this belief system be so painful for her to embrace immediately after Ben’s death?
5. Do you understand why Ben never told his mother about his relationship with Elsie? Why do you think Elsie didn’t push him harder on this?
6. Why is it important to Elsie that she and Ben were legally married? What do you think about Susan’s point of view, that, “It means nothing . . . You think that some ten minutes you spent with Ben in a room defines what you meant to each other? It doesn’t. You define that. What you feel defines that. You loved him. He loved you . . . It doesn’t matter whether it’s labeled a husband or a boyfriend. You lost the person you love. You lost the future you thought you had” (p. 250)?
7. Turn to the scene where Ben and Elsie are driving to Las Vegas and, as a group, read aloud the argument that they get into. Could you see each point of view, or did you side more with Elsie or Ben? Should one of them have handled the conversation differently?
8. When Elsie first arrives at Susan’s house, she realizes: “I can’t help but think that maybe because it’s okay to cry, I can’t” (p. 261). Can you find some other concrete examples of the grieving process that are illustrated in the book? Were there particular moments of Elsie’s (or Susan’s) mourning that especially resonated with you?
9. Ana and Mr. Callahan each try to offer Elsie words of comfort and wisdom after Ben dies. At the time, she mostly rejects what they have to say. How has Elsie’s point of view changed by the end of the novel—and have Ana’s and Mr. Callahan’s perspectives shifted as well?
10. Elsie has a very distant relationship with her parents. How do you think their absence from her life affects first her courtship with Ben—and then later, her experience of mourning? Do Elsie’s views on family change over the course of the narrative? Do you think the novel distinguishes between what constitutes friendship and what constitutes family?
11. Ben and Elsie’s relationship is twice likened to a “supernova.” Discuss the two different contexts that this comparison appears in. Ultimately, do you think it is an applicable analogy for their love?
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