by Dyanne Davis, contemporary (2007)
Parker Publishing, $9.95, ISBN 978-1-60043-004-6
If a case has to be made about an author destroying her own story by inserting conflict after conflict to the point of overkill, Exhibit A will be Dyanne Davis's Forever And A Day. I honestly don't know what to make of the heroine Torrie Thibodeaux because she either comes off as a sane and likable woman, a crazy Counselor Troi wannabe, or someone with serious delusions of grandeur depending on which chapter I am reading.
Let me give the storyline first before I go any further. Torrie and Jake Broussard go a long way back to their teens, but because the New Orleans African-American community is structured in such a way that Torrie is deemed second-class due to her darker shade of skin, events, including Jake's own prejudice back then, prevented their budding relationship from becoming more than a what-could-have-been thing. Torrie since she was a child has been plagued by dreams of New Orleans being destroyed in a great flood so she has a fear of storms for as long as she can remember. Therefore, even when they were apart, Jake usually still called Torrie whenever there was a storm so that he could give her some TLC via the phone.
When the story begins, Hurricane Katrina is making its way to New Orleans but many people, including Torrie's folks, are staying put. The reasons for this range from sheer stubborn denial that anything can go wrong to a belief that God will only punish rich people so He wouldn't harm them. The people who believe in that last bit clearly need to read the newspapers or watch the news on TV more often. At any rate, Torrie ends up like a modern day Noah, trying to get as many people as she can out of there. Jake is there too, because now he realizes that he can't live without Torrie and he wants to make things right where they are concerned. His timing, as usual, is impeccable.
Forever And A Day spans before and after Hurricane Katrina strikes the place. Ms Davis clearly wants to tell a story of strength and what-not when it comes to rebuilding one's life after a natural disaster, but Forever And A Day ends up coming off all wrong. The conflicts and the character continuity all seem to contradict each other as the story progresses.
For example, Jake called Torrie whenever there was a storm, so that would seem, to me, that he's not such a bad guy after all. Yet Torrie's family members keep treating him like a pariah despite all evidence to the contrary even as they hypocritically accept his help in everything else. Jake is made to prove himself to the Thibodeauxes to the point that it begins to seem as if the poor man is being exploited. Torrie's character is all over the place. First she is this spineless waifish creature talking about death and destruction. Then she's this confident woman leading her entourage out of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina strikes. Then she's reverted back to her more annoying self once it becomes clear that the author needs something to keep the lovebirds apart since there are more than two hundred pages more to go before the happy ending.
And oh dear, the conflicts! They are... ridiculous, to say the least. Torrie decides that she cannot be happy with Jake because it won't do to be happy when New Orleans is still in pieces. No, I'm not kidding. When Jake offers to rebuild her house, she asks him, "But what about the rest of New Orleans?" Who died and made her the prophet of New Orleans? It is really bizarre to read about how Torrie seems to hold herself responsible for all of New Orleans. It's the Mayor's job to help plan and get going the rebuilding of the city, not Torrie's! It's even more bizarre how the story makes it Jake's obligation to prove himself to Torrie and her family by single-handedly putting their lives back in order for them. Even more ridiculous is how Jake finds himself agonizing over things like how to give the Thibodeaux clan the financial aid they need without making it seem as if the money is his. I have a better idea - why not let those stupid and ungrateful wretches rot while moving on to a more appreciative company?
By the second two-third of the story Torrie seems to have appointed herself some kind of spiritual figurehead for all of New Orleans and I can't help wondering whether she needs to see a shrink as soon as possible. Of course, this means poor Jake has to do all the hard work for her. When Torrie is briefly that confident woman, I really like her, but by the end of the story she and her family come off as a clan of unpleasant people who use religion as an excuse to act out on their own prejudices. Jake is a nice man compared to the strange and parochial family he wants desperately to marry into so I can't help feeling that he should be running for his life instead of digging his own grave deeper just to please Torrie's messiah complex.
Believe it or not, I really want to like this book because Torrie, for one brief moment when she is sane and sensible, is a really adorable heroine. However, it's most unfortunate that she's a complete kook for the rest of the book. Too much of the time Torrie's behavior is just too bizarre and too messiah-like for me to understand. And because the attitudes of her and her family force Jake to jump over hoops again and again to prove himself to them to the point of overkill, it really feels as if I have read this excruciating book for Forever And A Day by the time I reach the last page and shudder in relief.
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