Tuesday, April 11, 2023

I Could Live Here Forever, by Hanna Halperin: The Many Faces of Addiction

Hanna Halperin's new novel I Could Live Here Forever is exactly as devastating as you'd expect any good novel about addiction to be. What makes this novel truly great, though, is how Halperin addresses different forms of addiction. Substance addiction, sure. But also emotional addiction, addiction to a certain feeling or a certain person that makes you feel that way. This feeling, this person can be just as toxic, just as dangerous as any drug. 

This book absolutely destroyed me. But I loved it an indecent amount -- it's so good. Soooo good.

Leah is a mid-20s woman working on her MFA  at the prestigious creative writing graduate program at the University of Wisconsin. On the first page of the novel, she meets Charlie -- a handsome, mysterious, affable fellow. She's smitten, he's smitten. They're smitten.

Charlie to his credit reveals very early in the relationship he's a recovering heroin addict. This of course gives Leah -- and her friends in her MFA cohort and her family, including her overprotective older brothers -- great pause. But she loves how he makes her feel -- like the most important, most beautiful, most loved person in the world. Ever since Leah's mother left when she was 13, Leah's developed some deep-seated psychological issues about being loved. So when Charlie DOES love her, she's addicted to how he makes her feel. Despite the red flags, of which they are an increasing number, despite the signs of relapse, and despite even breaking up with him a few times, their connection continues. But at what cost to each of them?

I absolutely loved this. I loved it for its fresh take and humanization of addiction -- this isn't Trainspotting, though, we're not watching needles go in arms -- and Charlie isn't your typical junkie. I also loved it for its "day-in-the-life" story of an MFA student.

Sure, there's a definite Sally Rooney vibe about this book, but if you're a Rooney skeptic, don't let that you stop you. Halperin, dare I say, is a more direct, easier-to-read writer than Rooney is. I actually read this 300-page novel in basically three sittings. And this will definitely be the 2023 novel I talk about way too much.

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