When Leah Kempler meets Charlie Nelson in line at the grocery store, their attraction is immediate and intense. Charlie, with his big feelings and grand proclamations of love, captivates her completely. But there are peculiarities of his life—he's older than her but lives with his parents; he meets up with a friend at odd hours of the night; he sleeps a lot and always seems to be coming down with something. He confesses that he's a recovering heroin addict, but he promises Leah that he's never going to use again. Leah's friends and family are concerned. As she finds herself getting deeper into an isolated relationship, one of manipulation and denial, the truth about Charlie feels as blurry as their time together.
Aching and tender ... Halperin’s radiant second novel walks the fine line between the longing for couplehood and the torture of codependency ... Halperin writes from a millennial point of view, probing themes of social anxiety and intense trepidation about the future. But Halperin’s take on love sets her apart: As misguided as Leah’s feelings for Charlie may seem, they are pure and hopeful — about as untainted by cynicism as it is possible to be.
Compelling ... Convincing ... It’s a credit to Halperin’s craft that despite the plot’s true-to-life repetitiveness, the reader is mesmerized by Leah’s stubborn refusal to recognize Charlie’s demons, or her own ... A wrenching story that’s been lived and told before. Halperin does us a service by sharing her version of it, entertaining, warning and educating us with her all-too-accurate novel.
Perhaps it is left up to readers whether they will be interested in the secondary storyline in the novel: the ins and outs of graduate students in a writing program, the stories they write for class, and how they all vie to impress a curt well-known literary agent who pays them a visit. This is Leah’s other world, the one she should be grounded in and focused on. At times, Halperin’s I Could Live Here Forever loses tension and immediacy in Leah’s day-to-day life at the university. While Leah’s self-destructive relationship with Charlie is the dark heart of the narrative, it is Leah’s gradual self-discovery of her own worth that breathes like a fresh new life. This, in the end, is a relationship well worth reading about.