Just Once by Lori Handeland
Just Once is both thought-provoking and emotional. It seemed especially true to me given the experiences I've had over the past (almost) two years. I've watched my mom decline no thanks to Alzheimer's. I watched my dad's health decline due to the exact same health issue Charley has in this story.
It's been more than 20 years since Frankie divorced her husband. Charley was the love of her life, but his affair with a much younger woman destroyed their marriage. Why he's back at her doorstep two decades later is beyond her. Worse, he has no recollection of his second wife and he doesn't realize 20 years. In his mind, he's still happily married to Frankie.
Hannah has loved Charley for so long. It breaks her heart to learn that he has no recollection of her at all. He sees her as a delusional woman. She's definitely not his wife, no matter what she keeps saying. Hannah has always been that "other woman" in Frankie's eyes, so the resentment is clear only this time it's on both sides.
When tests reveal Charley has a terminal health issue, one woman must face being there for a man who abandoned her decades ago. Another woman must face the truth that her husband truly, deeply loves another.
I was the medical power of attorney for my dad given my mom's own health issues. As a result, I really related to Frankie. Not the marriage aspect, but those choices she faced are heartbreaking. I truly understood that pain. I love that rather than let it consume her, she found a way to find strength and comfort with the woman she's despised for so many years. Watching them form a tentative alliance was a nice change of pace in a world that spews so much hatred on a daily basis.
The story is told from several viewpoints. You have Hannah in the past and in the present. There's Frankie in the past and in the present. There's also a good look at Charley's experiences in Vietnam and after he and Frankie marry. Just Once was never an easy story to read. I'm glad I did, however.