Never Forget: A Veteran’s Journey for Redemption & Forgiveness (282 pp. $9.95, paper; $1.99, Kindle) is a novel about how discussions about a war that led to dividing a family may later be the very thing that brings them back together. The author, Andy Adkins, a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, served in the U.S. Navy from 1973-77.
The book opens in 2001 and we find Tom Reilly, a single dad, in a troubled relationship with his son. Worse, he’s also estranged from his father; they have not spoken in decades. Then Riley gets a phone call from a retirement community, saying they need to speak to him about his father’s care now that he’s been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s. The two had had a big falling out over the war in Vietnam.
Tom often chain-smokes and sometimes smokes in public places even though he knows he shouldn’t. He drives a ’67 GTO and his favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival, although he has to listen to them on an Oldies radio station. He’s not a reader and doesn’t know anything about computers or the Internet—and is not bothered by any of that.
He’s not sure if he even wants to reconnect with his father, but he drives to the facility. To his surprise, the two seem to hit it off pretty well and he decides to begin making regular visits. Father and son start communicating again, but avoid talking about their fallout.
Reilly begins taking his son, encouraging him to meet the grandfather he has never known. A man who has never spoken about his World War II infantry experiences. Not coincidently, Tom Reilly has never talked to his son about his infantry experiences in Vietnam. But the fact that both men served in a war seems to have a positive effect on the old man’s memory.
He says: “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can tell you what I ate on Christmas Day, 1944.”
The grandson decides to do school projects based on interviewing the two older men. Over time, Tom Reilly finds himself being drawn closer to both his father and his son. While the two men visit the boy learns about how different their personal wartime experiences were—and the many ways the two wars were different from each other.
Andy Adkins has created a “small world” novel in which Tom Reilly encounters several Vietnam War veterans, including a man who is a part-time preacher and a healthcare worker, as well as the son of one of his father’s friends, and the former husband of another healthcare professional.
In addition, the boy’s history teacher is a Vietnam vet, and a prominent attorney in the story lost his son in the war. At the very least, these different voices provide more perspectives on the war.
Adkins pulls these parts together in a manner that is ultimately satisfying. This book should be shared by members of different generations who have an interest in learning about the Vietnam War and its continuing effects on those who were involved.
Andy Adkins is offering his book free of charge to all veterans and their families via a downloadable PDF or an eBook on his website, https://www.azadkinsiii.com/book_never.html