Saturday, March 9, 2013

One Summer by David Baldacci

David Baldacci is best known for his crime thrillers, but recently our book club selected his contemporary family novel, One Summer for our monthly read.  As the story begins, Jack Armstrong is facing his last Christmas.  All know he is in the last stages of a terminal disease, and his death will leave his wife with a young family to raise on her own. Even now, Lizzie struggles to cope with the daily demands of three children and Jack's physical needs. Jack's teenage daughter Mikki is coping with his diagnosis as many teens would, hiding behind a mixture of rebellion and sharp words.
From his hospital bed in the living room, Jack sees his family sinking in an emotional quicksand, but can do nothing.  Then the unthinkable happens -- Lizzie is killed in a car accident, leaving Jack as the surviving parent.

Sure that he will die in days, Jack allows his mother-in-law Bonnie to take charge.  She sells the family home, collects the children, disperses them to various relatives, and then leaves Jack to die, alone, in a hospice facility.  Jack doesn't die; by another turn of fate, he finds himself able to breathe on his own. Slowly he works to regain strength, leave the hospice facility and reclaim his children.  He decides to take the children south to the island where Lizzie had spent her early childhood, a place she had talked about revisiting after Jack's death.  There, Jack hopes he will be find enough of Lizzie's spirit to rebuild his family.

Telling anymore will ruin the story for those who want to venture to the island along with the Armstrongs.  Although some members of our book club were satisfied with the "feel good" tone of this read, most felt the book lacked depth and substance. I listened to most of the book, and in that format, it was an entertaining story.  When I switched to the print format, I felt the story drag, so I switched back to audio. If you're a fan of Nicholas Sparks, Richard Paul Evans, or such, then this read will not disappoint.  One Summer's strongest element is its theme --the belief that families are worth fighting for and that a family together can survive even the worst times.  That Baldacci used a few believable twists and turns to create his tale of one such family will disappoint some, but delight others. 

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