For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix
Published March 10, 2016
Page count: 170 pages
Seth finds himself alone at an abandoned train station, with no idea what happened, or how he got there. He boards a train, only to discover it’s a special express transporting the recently deceased to their final destination. The conductor tells him he’s having a near-death experience. Seth wonders if it has something to do with his violent boyfriend, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting the hell off the train before he actually dies. But when he spots his best friend and secret crush among the traveling dead, the urge to leave fades…
A very unique and creatively different mm romance book! I’m not even sure I personally would call For Never and Always romance as I prefer to reference it as literary fiction with LGBT and romantic elements.
Seth finds himself boarding a train only to discover it hauls those who’ve died to their final locations. Whether that’s back into the fray as a ghost that wasn’t able to clear their conscience and accept their death. Or, taking them to their afterlife (whatever that is) waiting for them once they’ve achieved clarity in death.
When Seth boards the train he’s told he’s not dead yet and he can leave as long as the doors remain translucent. When he finds his best friend Carter on the train, Seth is relieved. This is until he remembers that those on board are dead. Carter has passed away from cancer. He’s was young and feels bitter over his fate. He feels cheated out of more time to live a full life. He worries he won’t be remembered so he struggling to find his clarity and his time is running out.
During their voyage together, Carter and Seth learn a lot more about each other. They discover secrets that could have changed their lives. Feelings that could have made things better for Seth. Things that could have brought Carter down a different path as well. All that hindsight being so much clearer. So much that could have been if they’d only reached out a utter a few words to say how they felt.
Seth is trying to decided if he even wants to leave the train. Maybe death would be better than returning to his abusive boyfriend. All these intense moments and feelings cloud Seth and Carter’s choices. They want to be together but Carter knows Seth has a whole lot more ahead of him, if he can find the strength to carry on.
I expected this novel to bring on the tears, but it didn’t. I felt it was more serene. There wasn’t any urgency, even with the time pressure on Carter to clear his baggage by the last stop. The pace was slower, more for reflection and discovery. To be introspective and make the hard decision to let go or hang on. I expected to be gutted! I was pleasantly surprised that the author was able to achieve this world and dynamic for Carter and Seth that wasn’t melancholy but filled with the potential for more.
Please be aware of the triggers for this story. There are mentions of rape and suicide.