I Could Live Here Forever

Somewhere between Fatal Attraction and what narrator Leah Kempler calls "some beautiful love story" sits I Could Live Here Forever, Hanna Halperin's smoldering, troubling and indelible second novel, following Something Wild. Although fraught love is a commonplace subject in fiction, Halperin's sophomore effort has staked out fresh territory with a relationship that feels sui generis.

Leah is a 25-year-old Boston transplant, halfway into a two-year MFA program in fiction writing at the University of Wisconsin, when she meets Charlie Nelson at a grocery store. Charlie is a 31-year-old Madison native, a construction worker, and a recovering heroin addict who tells Leah that he's three years clean. I Could Live Here Forever is Leah's account of "the strangeness that was Charlieland," but the novel is no cautionary tale. Though Charlie is never violent or cruel, he can be terrifying, and yet most readers won't find themselves judging Leah too harshly for tolerating his unpredictability. Halperin, through Leah, is persuasive regarding Charlie's appeal: there's his lovely face, yes, but also his sweetness, humility, and determination to stay clean.

Leah's sometimes-dubious judgment isn't incompatible with self-awareness. As she puts it when she finally meets with a therapist: "She was going to try to get me to see how the damage from my childhood had driven me into Charlie's arms. It was all a bit insulting--both to me, and to Charlie.... What if I loved Charlie simply because he was Charlie?" Readers who travel to Charlieland may wonder the same. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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