Until Forever by Darlene Shortridge is a deeply emotional story about second chances and learning to forgive. From the outset, Jessi and Mark Jensen’s marriage is rocky at best. Jessi comes across as an over anxious control freak, while her husband Mark is selfish, immature and has a drinking problem. With that kind of foundation, is it any wonder that Jessi coddles their only child and treats Mark like an adolescent rather than an equal member of the relationship? Then devastation strikes. Mark and their son Ethan are involved in a car accident. Mark, who had been drinking, goes to jail and Ethan falls into an unresponsive coma.
Several years pass and Jessi decides to pull the plug and let Ethan die. She has become even more bitter than before, and even her Aunt Merry, a woman of deep faith, cannot convince her to surrender her problems to God. Meanwhile, Mark has been undergoing some changes of his own while in prison. Befriended by the prison Chaplin, he becomes a Christian and embarks on a brand new life as a believer. The biggest surprise that takes place during this time is that Jessi has had another child – a girl named Olivia, who is also Mark’s daughter. Apparently she was pregnant when the accident happened and no one knew. I had to wonder where the infant was while she was spending every waking moment at her son’s bedside before he died. That aside, the story moves forward when Mark gets released from prison. For me, this is where the story really begins.
The tables have turned as far as the reader’s sympathies go. Mark is a genuinely changed man, where as Jessi has become, quite understandably, even more anxious and unforgiving. Little by little, however, through the prayers of Aunt Merry, Mark and others, Jessi begins to soften.
What I really liked about this book was the way the characters were so well rounded. I can’t imagine facing this same kind of trauma and yet the author manages to reveal all the emotional turmoil while still keeping it real. Healing is a slow process for Jessi, as I imagine it would be for someone faced with this situation. Mark, as a Christian, demonstrates the dramatic change that can take place in a person’s life without becoming a goody-good or seeming cliché.
Because of the depth of the emotional content, this was not always an easy book to read. However, it was satisfying in that the character’s growth and the story line moved steadily forward. Ultimately, healing does come, but it is not an easy journey. For a poignant, touching, and thought provoking read, try Until Forever.