One Summer: A Novel by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing, $25.99, 352 pages; Hachette Audio Unabridged version on 7 CDs, $24.99)
Take a break from your own life and get to know the Armstrong family of Ohio. They are the central figures in David Baldacci’s poignant novel, One Summer. This reviewer was captivated by the depth of character development, both male and female, that Baldacci brought to his tale of loss and redemption. The added bonus was listening to the audio version narrated by two highly-skilled readers, Don McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy. Together they provide a wide range of voices for the characters. This blend brought the story to life in a way that would be hard to match with a print version of the book.
The story opens as Jack Armstrong, all around good guy and former military man, awaits his slow death from a rare and always-fatal disease while Christmas approaches. Jack’s lovely wife Lizzie and three children are struggling to cope with the inevitable loss they face. Each has their own way of doing so and 15-year-old daughter Michelle (Mickie) has alienated herself from everyone by rebelling against the entire matter with anger. Deep down inside Lizzie knows she will have to go on without Jack very soon; however, she fantasizes about the entire family revisiting her childhood home in South Carolina during the following summer.
Baldacci takes this premise and injects his own deeply felt take on loss by setting up a twist whereby Lizzie dies in a car crash and Jack miraculously survives. Rather than playing on the sympathy of the characters he has created, Baldacci brings out the good and the weaknesses of everyone involved. This is a tale that demands spirited action and dashing drama. Baldacci delivers all this and more. It is perfectly fine with this reviewer that the gritty reality of life coexists with a fairytale quality series of plot twists.
There’s no mystery here, love conquers all. Highly recommended.
An audiobook review copy was provided by the publisher. “In One Summer, (Baldacci) writes as beautifully and insightfully about the pathways of the human heart as he does about the corridors of power. …(a) hugely emotional and unforgettable novel.” Lisa Scottoline, author of Save Me.