never ever forever by Karina May

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

This novel is the second in a two-book deal the author has with Pan MacMillan. Her first was the book Duck à l’Orange for Breakfast. As both of these titles might suggest, these stories have their own quirkiness. never ever forever, with no capital letters, is written by Sydney-based Karina May, a former magazine journalist turned digital marketer. It is obvious that the author likes to make people laugh with her writing, but at the same time her latest novel is full of feelings especially around personal relationships.

Most of the characters in this story have major emotional issues to overcome. The setting is modern Australia with a detour into colourful, loud, exotic India. There are many references to TV programs, news events and social media such as The Bold and Beautiful, Harry Potter, and the Game of Thrones, which anchor the book in the early 21st Century. While Rosie fantasises, a sudden swoosh of water from the luxe showerhead jolts her from her Fifty Shades moment as it spurts out onto the concrete shower floor (239). The behaviours of some of the characters suggest a liberated modern society which some older readers might consider rude or inappropriate.

At the centre of this tale is Rosie who spends a lot of time on dating apps searching for love. A previous relationship had ended abruptly, and she is having problems finding someone to connect with. She has traded in her high-pressured marketing career in Sydney for a slower paced lifestyle in Mudgee working in local radio. A school reunion brings the painful past to the present and her new job presents problems when she has to co-host a program with a high-profile TV presenter.

This story is all about relationships, their fragility and lasting impacts.  From the relationship with her mother, who left when Rosie was young, to her close friends and romantic connections, Rosie has to learn to be more open to understanding the motivations of others and be willing to forgive before she can fully commit to lasting connections. Throughout her life, she had harboured resentment and she knew that this was the foundation of hatred. It was up to her to try to let it go.

Although this story might appear flippant in sections there is also a serious side to it and the information is presented in such a way that the reader can see the humour in the situations even as they acknowledge the pain. The story also has its unexpected turns.

Karina May was working in digital marketing when she started dabbling in creative writing just for the fun of it – but she soon found herself hooked on the craft of storytelling. She did several courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre, and this gave her the structure to complete her first manuscript.

never ever forever

(2023)

by Karina May

Pan Macmillan

ISBN:978-1-76126-378-1

$34.99; 336pp

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