Saturday, August 13, 2011

For Now, For Always by Marianne K. Martin

Publisher:                Bywater Books

What would you give up to save your family? Would you give up college and a career? Would you give up a chance at a decent job and live on public assistance? Would you give up love? 

Renee Parker never stopped to think about her choices. She was seventeen, her stepfather had committed suicide because he couldn't take care of the family, and her mother was sent to prison for embezzlement. Someone had to take care of her four younger sisters and brothers and she was obviously that person. She's been handling the responsibilities and it hasn't been easy. Renee is trying to provide stability in the children's lives, go to school, and work a job.

Then there's the social worker assigned to their case, Millie Gordon. Gordon's years of experience tell her that Renee can't do the job and her personal prejudice against Renee's lesbianism confirms that the young woman shouldn't be given the chance to influence the children's lives. Fortunately, through numerous hearings, the skill of Renee's lawyer has kept the family intact, but each case gets harder. 

The youngest child, Rory, has developed epilepsy, and his attacks are becoming more frequent. One of these attacks brings nurse Olivia Dumont into their lives. Olivia's love for children draws her into the family where she discovers a different kind of love for Renee. Finally, Renee has found someone who can and wants to help her with the many responsibilities she has, but not if Millie Gordon has her way. When everything else fails, Gordon will use the women's relationship as an attack on the family and Renee has to make some serious decisions. She has always promised the children she would be with them "for now, for always," but she may have to break the law to do it and leave Olivia behind as a consequence.

Marianne Martin is one of the true wordsmiths of lesbian literature. She uses rich vocabulary to paint the images in her stories, both characters and settings. For Now, For Always is another of her books that gives the reader much to think about. The nature of family duty is explored as Renee tries to do what's right for her siblings and deal with the anger she feels at her parents for leaving them in this situation. The role of the court in family issues is also scrutinized, especially in how a dedicated, but misguided, social worker can try to misuse the system. 

Anyone reading the book has to feel the frustration and absolute fear that radiate from Renee as she tries to cope with all of this and the yearning she feels for the love and support that Olivia can give her, but which she is terrified to take. This is the type of story that makes you want to take up a sword and sign petitions. Another well told, engrossing, intricate story told by an author who isn't afraid to step outside of the constraints of traditional formulas. For Now, For Always is definitely a book to be placed in your "to be read" pile.

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