It has been five years since his wife died and there are days when Charlie King wonders how he’s survived without her. His teenage daughter is dating now and Charlie can’t help wondering if he’s done all he can to educate and prepare her for what happens as she approaches adulthood. And he can’t help thinking his wife could have done it ten times better. But Charlie’s doing okay, all things considered, and if he’s a bit lonely, well that doesn’t seem terribly important when compared to caring for his daughter. And then he meets his new neighbor, Simon Lynley.
Simon has moved away from his old life, from a job he’d come to hate and a 12-year relationship that took more from him than it ever gave. He’s journeyed to Pennsylvania to work on the kind of architecture that has always been his passion and to forget about the past. Simon never expected to find Charlie. Charlie who talks non-stop, loves his daughter, and is so joyful, despite his grief, that he takes Simon’s breath away. As they begin to tentatively move towards a relationship, a family crisis will test them and might well destroy their chance at happiness before it even begins.
To date, I’ve yet to read a bad book by Kelly Jensen. She’s an auto buy for me and always dependable when it comes to well-written stores with strong characters and enough emotional punch to leave an impact. Building Forever is no exception. Charlie and Simon are both excellently rendered and really read as fully formed and vibrant. They’re human and imperfect, but that makes them so relevant. And they work wonderfully together. Charlie’s rambling sense of humor and empathy mesh well with Simon’s quiet, staid personality. The secondary cast of characters isn’t as established as much as I would like, but they don’t clutter up the story either or overshadow the relationship between Simon and Charlie.
I think one of Building Forever’s real strengths is in Charlie’s response to his daughter Olivia’s big reveal towards the end of the book. It feels so very human and believable. His reaction is that of every parent who loves their child and feels as though somewhere along the line they failed them. That the mistakes children make are a result of some deficiency on the part of the people who love them the most. And while some parents are truly horrid, the majority of them are just doing their best to raise baby humans under incredible pressure. And Charlie is one of those. No one could love their kid more and so he takes her actions as a kind of personnel failure. His helplessness and grief and disappointment feel so real as he makes the journey from believing himself responsible to accepting the reality that some things are simply beyond his control.
Building Forever is the first in a new series and it’s off to a strong start. There aren’t any fireworks here, no car chases or action packed adventures. Instead, we’re given the stories of two men who understand pain, but can embrace love in spite of it, or even because of it. Building Forever is about fathers and daughters and the families we make and the power of love even when everything else seems on the verge of falling apart. This one is definitely recommended.