Time and Forever
On Sherry Southerland’s sixty-third birthday, her friend Lorena gives her an unusual present: a visit to a virtual reality studio in Hollywood which can replicate two weeks in any time period. Sherry, nostalgic for a missed romantic connection from her youth, chooses 1969 London. But to their surprise, the two women actually travel through time. Now Sherry is falling in love with the man who got away, and widowed Lorena is tempted by the chance to have two more weeks with her beloved husband. Despite mediocre writing, Lorena’s story unexpectedly got to me. Sherry’s, which dominates the page count, left me unmoved
When I say mediocre writing, I mean both technically and structurally. I hate to see an ebook conform to stereotype with sloppy errors like missing quotation marks and commas, misspelling the name of a Hollywood star, and accidentally doubling a section of text. Setting-dropping is rampant, from sections reading like travel guides to sentences written for the express purpose of slipping in British slang. The time travel resolution at the end is vague and hasty. The worst offense, though, was choosing to tell the wrong heroine’s story.
Sherry kissed Jeremy Smythe once when her Tube train jostled. (I don’t understand this; I’ve ridden congested trains and never once been tempted to kiss the person I was tossed up against). He asked for her number and she refused, apparently because she wanted to keep the moment magical. (I don’t understand that, either). Now, she just happens to bump into him again in a pub – what are the odds? – and is immediately smitten, as is he. In addition to the feelings being rushed, I don’t trust relationships based on mystical attraction. Plus, there was no conflict beyond “When will Sherry tell him about being a time traveler?” and “Can they find a way to be together after she does?”
Lorena’s story is much more compelling. Imagine having lost the love of your life, and suddenly having the chance to be together again – but only for two weeks. Just the thought of it makes my chest tighten. When Sherry tuned out Lorena’s warning that changing the past might change the present, including undoing the existence of Sherry’s children, I felt disgusted by Sherry’s selfishness. Her “love” for Jeremy came across as shallow infatuation and did not justify the risk to her children and the universe. By contrast, when Lorena begins to want to stay in the past with Dave, the decades of love gave weight to her dilemma.
The problem is that these conflicts happened in my imagination, not on the page. While I was wondering if it was better or worse to have just two weeks with a lost love, Lorena never even thought about it. She just went. I imagined myself having survived the loss of my husband, being reunited with a young, healthy version of him, and then either jeopardizing our children and space-time or returning to the reality of his death. Despite the fact that the question is entirely imaginary, I felt a bit queasy considering it. Yet for Lorena, the choice is real. So I was incredibly disappointed when she decided (I won’t tell you how) in a few sentences – the same amount of time Sherry spends quoting Oscar Wilde on London fog, or that the author spends describing the old Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles. Come on, author! Shakespeare got an entire play out of indecision. You can get at least a few pages!
Maybe a good editor could have convinced the author to reduce or cut Sherry’s plot and rewrite the story about Lorena, using the added page count to grow the most compelling parts of the story. In the absence of that editor, Time and Forever falls short. I give the story credit for some kernels which made me hurt and made me think. I just wish the execution had been worthy of the concept.