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Review: The Forever Girl, by Alexander McCall Smith

HERB JOHNSON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
The Forever Girl, by Alexander McCall Smith
There is a young girl named Sally who lives on Grand Cayman Island with her parents who decides at the age of four to change her name to Clover. There is no reason given for the name change. Just the whim of a child.
She has two friends . . . James and Ted. She has strong feelings for James, even as a child. But this is not a childish whim. It’s not even a passing fancy. It is a life-long obsession.
McCall Smith, who did such good work with the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, seems to have decided in a more recent novel to abandon the concept of having a story line.
Mind you, time does pass. Clover grows up and goes away to college, as does James. As does Ted. All different colleges. They spend years bumping into each other in pubs and at parties and on the street.
Clover finds a boyfriend of whom she is fond. James always shows up with a girl on his arm. Ted keeps looking for a boyfriend. And through it all Clover obsesses about James and how much she loves him and will never love anyone else.
She confesses her love for James to Ted. She confesses to just about anyone who will listen. But she never tells James. Never. Sometimes it will be on the tip of her tongue, but James always picks that moment to leave for an important engagement.
This is pretty much the whole book. Clover’s parents provide a bit of counterpoint when they split up and then get back together. Clover’s mom Amanda decides one day she no longer loves her husband. Just like that. A split-second decision in the middle of a nice conversation. Several years later she decides she loves him after all. No reason given; no emotional insights.
If there is any insight into love and what it is all about, it seems to boil down to the idea that one can become obsessed. Forever.

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