Book: Once in Every Life
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Fiction/Sci-Fi/Historical Romance
Summary: Tess Gregory is a woman who has been given a miraculous second chance at life. Jack is a man who abandoned hope long ago. Imprisoned by savage memories, he believes he has nothing to offer anyone, especially a woman like Tess, who dares to ask for the impossible . . . his love. -Ballantine Books, 1992.
Reading this book was very interesting because it's one of Kristin Hannah's first novels. It was published in 1992, almost 30 years ago. Seeing how Hannah is still publishing books even as recently as two years ago, it says a lot about the enduring quality of her books and her career. It was great to see glimpses of the themes Hannah would focus on in later novels.
Tess Gregory finds herself given a second chance at life after a tragic accident. She has to choose her new life and she picks a family that has been broken apart. She has to use the lessons she learned in her past life in order to bring her new family back together and finally earn the love she has so desperately longed for, but never received.
What makes this book so different from Hannah's current works is the sci-fi element. Tess not only gets to choose her new life, but these lives don't exactly correspond to the time she originally lived in. She ends up choosing a family that's living in the post-Civil War era. She has to not only adjust to her new life, but the new time period as well.
The story itself reads as a cross between a Hallmark movie and a Lifetime movie. It can be melodramatic at times and things do get a little raunchy on occasion, but it never becomes a smut novel. Hannah focuses on how Tess and Jack overcome the trials in their pasts and their relationship in order to have their happily ever after.
I enjoyed the story as a whole. All of the characters were endearing in their own ways and you can see the early themes of family - especially dysfunctional ones - develop in Hannah's writing. The only plot point/character in the novel that got a tad on my nerves was Jack. While I understand that someone in his situation (discussing it involves spoilers) would realistically take a long time to meet Tess where she is, it got increasingly repetitive and frustrating whenever there was monologue about him - regardless of whether it was from his point of view or not.
Other than that, I enjoyed the book. It was quaint, yet powerful in its themes of healing and forgiveness. Hannah is truly a great writer.
I give Once in Every Life a B+.
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Thanks for reading!