As the full force of Hurricane Glorietta threatens Texas coastline residents, people begin panicking, flying from security and home to the tenuous shelter of the inland. One wouldn't think that a category four natural disaster would be the right stimulus to straighten out folks' lives. But for some, the shakeup is just what they need to propel them forward.
Before Glorietta hits Texas, Kai Miller believes she's contented. She's a naturally cheerful, spontaneous person who, for the most part, is really happy with her great job and social life. Kai is a cute 27-year-old who works aboard a local cruise line, teaching couples to make jewelry and to dance. Her few scattered friends are new acquaintances she's made in Perdida, where she lives in a small apartment by herself. Kai is new in town and estranged from her entire remaining family. Strong roots have never been planted anywhere for her.
Once news reports begin surfacing about Glorietta, the question of evacuation becomes a nonissue for most residents. Appeals are made for Texans to leave coastal areas while they can. The storm is expected to threaten lives and even make the record books. Before hitting the road in her van, Kai first attempts to get her neighbor Don to leave. When that fails, she gathers up his dogs and sets off for an uncertain destination, stopping only for food and water and to fill her gas tank. Pulling onto crowded freeways and then side roads, Kai quickly finds that her van barely moves with the sheer numbers of cars. With tensions rising, the mob is becoming frightening; some even seem to be frankly dangerous.
Not far past the gas station where Kai had filled up, she comes upon three stranded old ladies. They're among the many who’ve pulled over now, having run out of gas with no help in sight. Kai is scared but can't bring herself to abandon people in need, especially ladies in their 70s. She offers them a lift, knowing they won't get far before they all have to walk. They drive until Kai runs out of gas. But by the end, Kai's kind gesture will reward her tenfold. Finding shelter from the storm in a church, the women huddle among other newly homeless families. Hushed and listening to the raging storm outside the windows, they comfort each other through the most frightening moments they've ever experienced.
They survive and even somehow manage to get through the horrible hours of the disaster unscathed. But those in the church now have nowhere to go, except for the old ladies Kai rescued. For now, the thing to worry about is taking care of the displaced. Donetta Bradford has decided to take everybody in. She manages to get hold of her nephew, Kemp Eldridge, whose arrival at the church causes quite a stir within Kai. With Kemp's help, Kai and Donetta gather everyone together and head out to Donetta's home in Daily, Texas.
Kemp is a professional ball player in his 20s, a cowboy/athlete whose injuries have recently taken him out of the game. He works in Daily as a baseball coach and math teacher at the local school but hopes to return to the game again. Kemp's job dreams of a decorated pro career have cost him a lot; his ex-fiancée is still grieving over his obsession with it. Once Kai arrives in Daily, she wants very much to become involved with Kemp. To her delight, the attraction is mutual and immediate. But neither are very good at commitment, both having issues that keep them from really giving themselves.
In NEVER SAY NEVER, a natural disaster becomes the impetus that brings people unexpectedly together. Kai and Kemp are by far the cutest couple of the hurricane, but theirs is not the only romance of the story. And the hurricane itself is actually a brief part of the book, acting as a momentum for change rather than being a concentrated focus. The novel's appeal lies not in action but in the engaging romances that occur after.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on February 1, 2010