Just Once

“But it was another reminder to hold tight to today. The gift of this one sunrise and sunset. God alone knows what the future holds for any of us, but He has called us to appreciate this life, and to thank Him daily for it. While we still can.”—Karen Kingsbury, Just Once.

Just Once begins when Irvel Holland Myers receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Knowing she has just six months before the disease ravages her brain so badly that she forgets everything, her husband records her memories, including those of her time serving as a code breaker, a secret she has kept from her entire family.

Set against the backdrop of World War II, the narrative weaves together romance, faith, and the sacrifices made during wartime. The story takes us back to Irvel’s childhood, when Hank Myers, her neighbor, promises to marry her someday. Instead, she ends up with Hank’s brother, Sam. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Sam immediately enlists, leaving Irvel and Hank dancing around their growing attraction.

Then a devastating telegram arrives, and Hank enlists the next day. Before long, the Office of Strategic Services recruits math whiz Irvel and begins posing as a nurse on a Navy ship while working as a code breaker. All three must rely on their faith to survive and make it back home.

The Alzheimer’s storyline hit close to home for me, having seen my dad wrestle with that cruel disease, but Kingsbury weaves it into the fabric of the plot with grace. Just Once is a poignant love story that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us of the power of love, faith, and the sacrifices made for freedom. The author’s own beliefs shine through in her writing.

I love this statement from the author’s note:

“One thing I took away from Irvel’s fictitious story was an even more real appreciation of the freedoms we have living in the United States. At least in my family, we are still a people who believe in that freedom, and the truth that to live free is a God-given gift.”

I’m giving Just Once 4.5 stars (rounded up to five) and am looking forward to exploring more of Karen’s work in the future.

** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a comp of this book. The opinions expressed are my own.

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