I’ve read everything David Baldacci has written, beginning with “Absolute Power” in 1996. Few writers can match him when it comes to the action thriller. I’ve had the good fortune to interview him several times since 2006.
Too bad Baldacci had to spoil his winning streak with “One Summer,” a saccharin story about a family’s tragic loss, miracle and ultimate healing.
The story begins at Christmas. Jack Anderson, a young father of three and loving husband to Lizzie, is at home, waiting to die of some disease with a long name that he “could not pronounce or even spell.”
When Lizzie is killed in an accident on the way home from getting Jack’s medicine, the family is torn apart.
Michelle, his teenage daughter, Cory, his 12-year-old, and Jack, Jr.. a toddler are sent to live with relatives while Jack is moved into hospice to die.
But, wait. There’s more.
After Michelle gives her father a goodbye hug, he experiences a miracle.
“Something was burning in his chest that he could not exactly identify or even precisely locate. ... As the clock ticked, the burn in Jack’s chest continued to grow.”
After running a series of tests, the hospice doctor tells him, “Okay, I officially believe in miracles. Your blood work came back negative. No trace of the disease. It’s like something came along and chased it away. ... There’s no way to explain it medically.”
Jack gets up from his deathbed, gathers his children and heads to the fictional town of Channing, South Carolina, where Lizzie’s family still owns a summer place called “The Palace.”
Baldacci loses his way early on in “One Summer.” The characters, while admirable, are one-dimensional and experience little, if any, growth as the story progresses.
Michelle gets involved in pretty stupid predicaments with cookie-cutter small-town characters. She needs a strong hand, but Jack is too wrapped up in repairing a lighthouse on the property to deal with his daughter’s issues.
If you can believe it, Jack becomes romantically involved with a woman. A former attorney, she runs a restaurant in town.
If you want a vapid story you can finish by the water without having to use brain cell one, then by all means, pick up a copy of “One Summer.” Otherwise, wait until Baldacci leaves the romance novels to Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins and returns to what he does best – political thrillers and espionage.
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