One Summer by David Baldacci (2011)

BaldacciOneSummerDavid Baldacci is the only writer who could have gotten me to read this story. From anyone else, it would be a sappy, sort of romantic story you’d give a teenage girl. You can give this one to a teenage girl or boy, certainly, but Baldacci has the capacity to touch a much larger audience.

Jack is really a pretty normal, all-American guy, but he has a terminal illness and isn’t sure he’s going to make it to Christmas. So he starts writing a series of letters to his devoted wife Lizzie, with the idea she will read them after he’s dead.

Fate has other ideas. One night, perhaps it was Christmas eve, Lizzie notices that one of Jack’s medicines has run out, and realizes that the pharmacy is still open. So she hurries out in the car to get it for him, gets in an accident, and is killed. There’s Jack, thinking she would be mourning him, now mourning her instead. He figures any day now his three kids are going to be orphans, and sends them off to live with his in-laws in Arizona.

Instead of dying, he begins to recover from the illness (never named) that was thought to be 100% fatal, and tests prove he’s honestly free of the disease. So his business partner and friend, Sammie, takes on the role of coach and forces him back to fighting trim. (They are both ex-Marines.)

Lizzie had intended to take the kids to the place in South Carolina where she grew up, a rambling old wreck named “The Palace” by the family, which includes a non-working lighthouse. So Jack and Sammie decide to take the kids there for the summer, fix up the house, and give the kids a chance to see somewhere totally different from Cleveland, where they lived until now.

If you think I’ve given you too much detail, spoilers, you don’t know Baldacci. There are enough charming people and places and incidents, heroes and villains and hard choices to make, to keep me reading eagerly all the way through. And I’m not easy to please in what is essentially a sweet little family story that even has a touch of religion — but only the lightest touch.

Well worth a read for practically anyone.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.