Everlastin' Love by Gay G. Gunn
(One World/Ballantine Indigo Love Stories, $4.99, PG)
ISBN: 0-345-42219-8
*****
Jasmine (Jaz) and Quinton (Qwayz) Chandler were in love. Unequivocally in love. They were young and had a lifetime of love ahead of them.

"It was a familiar sight. A red Karman Ghia speeding up the coastal highway from Watts to San Francisco. A guy, a girl and a dog. The guy and girl had been inseparable since high school, since she was sixteen, now he was graduating from Stanford, law school bound, a she was finishing up her junior year at Berkeley. You seldom saw one without the other."

Everlastin' Love begins in January of 1968. The Vietnam War has touched the lives of the young lovers and their families. T.C., Jaz' brother and Qwayz' best friend, has been killed in Vietnam. T.C.'s death is the first in a dizzying chain of events that year. Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated. President Lyndon Johnson's refused to seek reelection. Richard Nixon was elected president. The Paris peace talks began. And Qwayz, Stanford's star basketball player, graduated with honors and a scholarship to law school.

But Qwayz postpones law school to join the Air Force. Jaz is devastated, quoting a line from Dr. Zhivago "Only an unhappy man volunteers to go to war." He tries to comfort her by tell her he'll be going to Vietnam as an officer in a "secure" desk job in Saigon. Jaz is not convinced.

Days before he is to come home, Qwayz is listed as missing in action. His status is changed from MIA to KIA killed in action and Jaz is suddenly a young widow. She refuses to accept that he is gone and remains in denial for more than a decade.

Although Jaz is in denial about Qwayz, most other areas of her life function like a well-oiled machine. She has made a career change from medicine to architecture and joins her father's business. Jaz is part of a close-knit group of family, "in-laws and out-laws" who support her in good times and bad. They give her space to heal at her own pace. But there is still an emptiness in her life where Qwayz used to be.

Kyle Jagger, her father's second-in-command, wants to fill that spot. He is loving, patient and aware that he cannot compete with Qwayz's memory and must peacefully co-exist with it. Kyle sets out on a campaign to chase Jaz until she catches him.

Gay G. Gunn has written a powerful story about love that lasts "until death do you part" and beyond. Everlastin' Love is also a story about hope, trust and second chances. Family and friends are important elements in her work. The Culhane, Chandler and Jagger families have strong values to sustain them and they nurture those values to give to the next generation.

Music is another important element in Gunn's work. Qwayz and Jaz' marriage even has a theme song, "Too Young" by Nat King Cole, a comment on their elopement. The novel chronicles the years between 1968 and 1985. Gunn skillfully uses the music and popular culture of the era as a backdrop and as commentary on the social and political climate and on relationships between the main characters.

"Music, as much a part of them as breathing, was yanked from their lives, and the silence screamed between them."

Everlastin' Love is a gift. One World/Ballantine has reissued the 1996 novel, first published by the smaller Genesis Press. The novel is now available in the standard paperback size at half the original price.

In Everlastin' Love, Gay G. Gunn has given us a wonderfully well-written story of love and its sacrifices. If you are a hopeless romantic like me, I must give you fair warning: Get out your handkerchiefs!

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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