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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Reading Keep Forever by Alexa Kingaard is a bit like enjoying one of those warm fuzzy movies that dominate the TV channels at Christmas…not because it’s centered on Christmas, but because it reminds us of those cherished, homey values and feelings that surface, for most of us, as we sit around the tree or Christmas table, the greatest of which is love. This story of Elizabeth, her siblings, and her husband, Paul, spans several decades, but Kingaard is skilled at keeping the story moving, not cluttering it with too many details or insignificant events in a person’s life that can slow down an interesting narrative. When their parents die in a car accident, the teenage Elizabeth and her older brother are at a loss as to how to look after the younger children. This is where those homey values surface: the extended family of uncles, aunts and grandparents rally around the children to help. With their support, all the children grow into happy, responsible adults. This is the kind of love and support all families should be able to count on, but there are far too many who can’t.
Keep Forever is also a story about making decisions when emotions run high. Elizabeth’s older brother, initially faced with the prospect of having to look after this parentless family, enlists in the military. It’s a decision he comes to regret, but which also brings his comrade, Paul, into Elizabeth’s life after they return from service, both injured and suffering with PTSD. What follows, especially for Paul and Elizabeth, is a lifetime of struggling with Paul’s nightmares, but again, her love for her husband carries them through Paul’s suicidal feelings, attempts at rehabilitation and more. And always, their loving family is there for them.
The descriptions of the bloodshed and injuries on the battlefields of Vietnam in Keep Forever are graphic and readers will respond emotionally to what they read. It is good they are included: for those who haven’t fought in Vietnam, who question just how bad it was, Keep Forever will help them visualize it more fully and better understand how these vets feel when they finally come home. A thought from another book comes to mind as you close the pages of Keep Forever: the true measure of a person’s value is determined by who they are, not what they do. Those are the kind of people you will read about in this excellent first novel by Alexa Kingaard.