Maybe Flora and her younger brother, Julian, came from the ocean or the television or even the horizon. The multiracial 11-year-old girl doesn’t remember much before being adopted two years ago, but when her classroom pet mouse has babies, she begins to wonder about her own birth. With no early memories and no record of a birth mother, Flora is certain she never was a baby. So how did she begin?
In Forever, or a Long, Long Time, Caela Carter examines the aftermath of foster care and adoption through the lens of Flora, who is repeating the fourth grade, can’t talk when her words get “stuck” and has trouble always believing Person (her secret name for her white adoptive mother) is her forever mom. Additional layers of this untraditional family are revealed through Julian, with his fake smiles and food hoarding, and their black adoptive father and his daughter from his first marriage.
The siblings’ memories become even more critical when Flora and Julian discover postcards sent from a former foster placement. In an effort to find out more about their past and prove to Flora and Julian that they really were babies, their adoptive mom takes them on a road trip to previous foster homes. Sometimes the answers just lead to more questions; there’s no saccharine ending here. But in learning about herself, Flora begins to make sense of her life now and what it means to be a family. Her story is heartbreakingly realistic and hopeful.