Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: March 28th 2020
Genres: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction
“Unlike some war stories that focus on intense, harsh and graphic depictions of post-combat trauma, this tale unfolds gently, like an Edna Ferber novel, spread across many decades, detailing the impact this soldier’s illness has on an entire family, including children and grandchildren. KEEP FOREVER is a wonderful, emotionally satisfying read that I highly recommend. ”
GARY SEIGEL, author of “Haskell Himself”
Paul O’Brien’s idyllic childhood in Southern California comes to a halt when his mother dies in the summer before his senior year of high school and a very different persona of his father emerges – isolating himself inside the house, turning to alcohol for comfort, and barely noticing his only child. Simultaneously, the war in Vietnam is sending shock waves around the world and young men from one coast to the other are being called upon to serve. Paul enlists in the Marines before receiving his draft notice.
Elizabeth Sutton is eager to gain some independence from her father’s old fashioned notions and looking forward to her first year in high school. At fifteen years old, tragedy strikes with the loss of both parents in an auto accident, turning her childhood into one of responsibility and worry overnight. The four siblings are scattered when her nine-year-old twin sisters are sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle on Nantucket Island, and Elizabeth is left behind in Boston with their grandmother. Her older brother, Sam, enlists in the Marines, eager to join the conflict a world away as opposed to dealing with the one unfolding at home.
A bond develops between Paul and Sam in Vietnam, and both are injured in a bloody battle that costs Sam his right hand and sets the stage for a lifetime of nightmares and sleepless nights for Paul. Matched by similar tragedies at a young age, Elizabeth and Paul’s first introduction by Sam upon their return from Vietnam is the beginning of friendship and love that survives five decades.
After marrying, welcoming their first child, and inheriting a small beach house, the couple adapts to their new surroundings, but distant memories of Vietnam continue to haunt Paul. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, he is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his loved ones amidst his his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As their lives unravel from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth learns to accept the burden that Paul brought home, and together they make their own memories to keep forever.
A True Story
ALEXA KINGAARD, a California native, currently resides in Carlsbad and is the mother of a son and daughter who continue to be her biggest fans and cheerleaders.
October 13, 2011, was the day that changed her life forever when her ex-husband, a Vietnam veteran, took his life during a PTSD flashback episode. Inspired to share this tragedy that continues to rob husbands and wives of their spouses, children of their parents, mothers of their children, brothers and sisters of their siblings, and comrades of their friends, Kingaard relied on her own experiences to shed light on this crisis. The burden brought home is not partial to Vietnam, but is an insidious aftershock endured by combat veterans of all conflicts.
Kingaard continues to pursue her literary career, writing about nostalgia and the human condition, the common denominator of our lives.
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Paul gently put his hand on the small of Elizabeth’s back and guided her through the still-crowded room, down the stairs, and out to the sidewalk that was packed with people in no hurry for the night to end. Elizabeth felt something, not sure what, but mostly safe, warm, and happy.
When Paul walked Elizabeth to her apartment door, he glanced at his watch and couldn’t believe it was already two a.m. Sam and Linda waited behind at the curb, car in neutral, waiting for Paul to say good night. With a charming smile, Paul said, “Thanks for a great evening, Elizabeth. I think that’s the most fun I’ve had since I came home from Nam.”
Still feeling a bit light-headed, she didn’t let on to Paul that her heart had fluttered all evening and she hoped the date would end with more than a handshake. Accepting the fact that she was probably alone in her fantasy, she simply nodded as she turned the key in her door. “Me too, Paul. That was fun. Thanks for a perfect evening.”
Paul, aware of the watchful gaze of Sam and Linda, threw aside caution and leaned in for a kiss, eager to taste the sweetness of Elizabeth’s lips, a moment he’d been thinking of since he first laid eyes on her when she was just sixteen years old. Then it had seemed impossible to him that they could ever share this moment. As his body felt the physical pain of restraint, his mind cautioned. Take is slow. Don’t hurt this girl. Don’t start something you can’t finish.
Elizabeth smiled and leaned in closer, savoring the sensation of his gentle mouth pressed against hers, careful not to linger. Her body tingled with a rush of pleasure, something she had never felt or dared to think she would ever experience. They stepped back, nervous and uncertain of what to do next. Elizabeth finally spoke first, “Well, ’night Paul.”
“’Night Elizabeth. Thanks again,” was all Paul could think to say as he turned and walked back to climb into the back seat of Sam’s car. What did I start that I might never be able to finish? I will never be good enough, rich enough, confident enough to share my life with this angel. The timing was not right, and he knew it. “Maybe one day,” Paul thought to himself.