On his death bed, Jack Armstrong prepares to leave his family in the care of his loving wife, Lizzie, when the unthinkable happens: Lizzie is killed in a car accident, just days from her husband's expected demise. Her vehicle had been mangled in her rush to get the medications that relieve Jack of his agonizing throes. Their children are met with this news by a policeman on their own doorstep and are devastated.
This is a novel that induces you to tears after the first chapter. By the second, you'll be hooked. And by the end, you'll feel as if you've come a long, long way and lived through what this family has endured.
Jack is now at the point of no return. Nothing can be done except to plan for the inevitable. Extended family do what they must, intending to split the three kids in order to find relatives who are willing to raise them. They also rush the necessary severing of ties with Jack in this process, as everyone can see he's at the tail end of a long and agonizing struggle with a disease that is 100% incurable.
Then the miracle happens that brings Jack back from the dead. Pouring over the many long letters he'd written to his wife, once thinking she'd be there in his place and he'd be gone, Jack braces himself to say his final goodbyes when his feisty daughter Mikki bravely confronts him. She lets down her tough-girl façade for a moment, just long enough to let him really see her. And Jack gets a crystal-clear glimpse of what he'll be missing. This kills him inside and fills him with hope in the same instant. In that time, when he easily could have given up, he regains something of his lost spirit and health, taking the first steps toward recovery from a terminal illness.
Clawing his way back, Jack returns to find his family waiting for him. But he hasn't forgotten what it was like to be on the edge of death. He lost everything while he was focused on that, and now he's found himself a celebrity in his grief, becoming infamous in tabloid circles. Still, Jack appreciates a second shot at life like no other. He's been given the chance to save his children in a real sense, and they're finally free to let go of their uncertainty.
Some invisible barrier still exists between Jack and his family, and this won't allow them to fully return in spirit. That barrier is grief, enduring because the woman they lost was such an extraordinary person. Lizzie really was the love of Jack's life, an irreplaceable companion and mother, and none of them will ever get over this loss. Suffering from situational depression, Jack is understandably determined to hold on to some part of her. He searches for signs of her enduring spirit in South Carolina, where he brings his family to Lizzie's summer home during her childhood. This is Lizzie's old beach house, which seems destined to return them to her. It's a family property and a place of dreams as well as dashed hopes. Something of Lizzie seems to remain particularly in the hallowed lighthouse where she once searched for her long-dead twin sister.
ONE SUMMER is a significant departure for David Baldacci, who has predominantly penned thrillers over the course of his prolific writing career (with the notable exceptions of his bestsellers WISH YOU WELL in 2000 and THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN in 2002). Here you will find both creative genius and a story that will touch your heart as it makes you feel more acutely than most books do. This is a novel that induces you to tears after the first chapter. By the second, you'll be hooked. And by the end, you'll feel as if you've come a long, long way and lived through what this family has endured.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on June 27, 2011
- Publication Date: December 27, 2011
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- ISBN-10: 0446583154
- ISBN-13: 9780446583152