Title: Forever 51
Author: Pamela Skjolsvik
Publisher: Fawkes Press
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Veronica Bouchard is a vampire who breaks her 10-year-long commitment to sobriety by drinking human blood soon after killing a 19-year-old employee at a tanning centre who has the temerity to mock her age. For there is no fury like that of a menopausal vampire.
Poor Veronica is forever 51 years old. Doomed to suffer an eternity of hot flashes and crazy hormones, she is desperate for any solution out of this mess. Being a vampire allows her to regenerate and erase bullet wounds, but at 51, it does nothing for her vanity.
A fervent member of Alcoholics Anonymous, which helps her cope with her hunger for blood, Veronica has, for the most part, restricted herself to an ethical meal. This ethical way is to drink from somebody at a terminal disease, already on the verge of death. The hospice at which she works, on the night shift, is the perfect hunting ground.
Then one day out of the blue, Veronica receives an FB friend request from her 15-year-old daughter, Ingrid, who turned her over a hundred years ago and then ran off with her hot, much older vampire lover, Desmond.
On the way to see her, Veronica acquires a friend, 21-year-old Jenny Pearson who suffers from hemochromatosis and severe drug dependency issues.
On responding to Ingrid’s friend request, Veronica becomes aware that there is a way to not only be able to see your reflection in the mirror but also to get your soul back. It involves offering a heartfelt apology to all those she has turned.
Determined to re-gain her soul and become mortal again, Veronica sets out on a road trip across the country to connect with and apologise to the five vampires she has turned.
The book is written in the past tense in the omniscient viewpoint. The tone is both mocking and indulgent towards vampires, and overthrows a few myths about vampires while reinforcing others. At one point, the author has Veronica push up her sleeves as if she were going to start a fight, or maybe wash the dishes.
Starting in the present in Texas, the book sees Veronica take us along across Massachusetts, Detroit, New Orleans, Nebraska and North Dakota as she sets out to meet and apologise to all those who turned vampires because of her, including her granddaughter, Millicent.
I don’t generally fancy vampire stories. I read Count Dracula back in the day, but I was put off by the Twilight series, and the film didn’t help at all. I picked this one up because the premise was so uproariously funny and offbeat.
The cover, though simple, hinted at the snarky story within, with its image of those protruding canines and that single drop of blood. Immortality's a bitch, and you'd better believe it.
Unlike Twilight, Forever 51 reminds us that being a vampire is nothing but endless days of monotonous nothing. For all the romance that the Twilight series conjured up around vampires, this book does away with the glamour of immortality and reminds us about the risks, hiding from reflective surfaces, never being able to socialise, and being incredibly lonely. Forever 51 romances the idea of mortality and living, the joys of eating ice cream and smelling, even if it means aging, since that is a part of life.
The word, vampire, isn’t mentioned until Chapter 3, but we have no doubt that V for Veronica and Vampire is sassy and big on attitude. She loses her cool when the tanning centre girl, flush with beauty at age 19, suggests she try Botox. Nobody likes to be reminded of their age, least of all a vampire. She keeps her temper under control thanks to AA’s sobriety programme whose catchphrase is HALT – Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?
Veronica’s vampirical nature allows her to comment on the times we live in. She moans that she is still alive in a world in which food which used to sustain life is now its own addiction. She is disturbed by modern slang, like the word, solid, standing in for the word, favour. But she is grateful for the invention of stretchy pants.
You can’t help liking Veronica. She can’t stand men who hurt women, physically or emotionally.
Her daughter, Ingrid, is excited to be mortal again, to be able to eat cheeseburgers and pee. Do you wipe back to front or front to back?
The violence is implied but the sex references are casual and gratuitous. There is a lot of bad language and loads of pop culture references, some of which I got and many I didn’t. The analogies were entertaining, just like Jenny who is described as having the size and dexterity of a rabid squirrel.
Just two mistakes. At the end of Chapter 5, we see a reference to Ingrid’s laptop. It should be Annika’s laptop, since we haven’t met Ingrid at this point. In another place, Gandhi was misspelled as Ghandi. I hope the author rectifies these minor errors.
Finally, this modern-day picaresque novel with Veronica behind the wheel, and Jenny, and us, in tow, is one great ride and read.