Monday, February 17, 2014

Fiction: The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith

Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s internationally beloved Ladies Detective Agency novels may find themselves confused by his latest book, The Forever Girl (Knopf Canada/Random House). Not an entry in either of McCall’s long-running series, The Forever Girl explores the nature and nuance of love through interlinked stories involving a couple and their daughter.

A child experiences her first love at age six, though she doesn’t have the words to describe it or the experience to understand. At the same time, her parents are discovering they are less in love than they once were. As the child, Clover, grows and changes, so does her love, even while her parents continue to struggle with their own realities and definitions.

This sweet and well-honed story shows McCall Smith to advantage. The characters and the tale are engaging and The Forever Girl emerges as a contemplation of love and how it forms us. Even so, it seems to me that many of this author’s fans will be put off by both the language and the very nature of the book. Though McCall Smith’s well known humor is not absent here, in The Forever Girl he uses it as a tool for examination of the inner-workings of the human heart and the tone, in general, is considerably less jaunty.

Now 65, McCall Smith is one of the most prolific authors alive, having written more than 50 books. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat in the North Pacific.

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