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Grief is messy and won’t be contained. You can try
compartmentalizing it, but it will slop over the edges and splash on every
surface until your life is soaked through. That’s what happens in Ansh Das’ memoir
Always Forever, but Das also shows how things dry out and you learn to
live with what you cannot control.
Hong Kong resident A.D. meets Filipino native Mikee while
covering the Mr. Gay World competition in Manila. He’s charmed by Mikee’s
heart, good looks and amazing angel tattoo, and they fall deeply in love. Mikee
visits A.D. but unwisely so. Mikee is suffering from an illness and less than
three months after they meet, Mikee is dead. A.D. must cope by gleaning what
comfort he can from Mikee’s friends and family in order to find the courage to
So, Always Forever is less a love story than a
depiction of what happens in the aftermath of love—loss, longing, emptiness—yet
all three of those are other parts of love. In Always Forever, A.D.
searches for the very heart of meaning by exploring Mikee’s old life in an
attempt to find solace. While this could be depressing, A.D. brings a stoic
beauty to his grief.
Is this a perfect book? No. Being memoir, it sticks to the
facts and events as they happen rather than establishing a narrative structure
and fleshing it out with the truth. Distancing itself from the actual
progression of events would have made it a better narrative, but that distance
would also have detracted from the emotional core of the book.
It’s that core that drives Always Forever along with
A.D.’s determination to understand not only Mikee and their love, but his role
in Mikee’s life. Surely they did not meet and fall in love only to be separated
after such a short time. There must be a reason for the brevity of their
relationship, and it’s A.D.’s restless search for this cause that spurs the
reader to turn the next page. It’s a wonderous yet difficult journey that is
personal and philosophical at the same time.
After the last page was turned, I found myself saying “Thank
you, A.D., for sharing such a difficult time in your life. I was moved, and I
learned something about both you and myself.”
And that’s more important than narrative structure any day.
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