One Summer, David Baldacci (Grand Central)

one summer

Baldacci, the author of a string of best-selling thrillers, once again steps outside his comfort zone. Like Wish You Well (2000) and The Christmas Train (2002), this novel focuses on family and relationships. However, compared to those titles, this one feels undercooked. The story is straight out of the B-movie playbook. A man is on his deathbed (literally) when his wife is killed in a car accident. Well-meaning relatives take charge of the three children, but then, miraculously, the man (whose illness is described as, as always, fatal) makes a full recovery. And now he must bring his family back together and rediscover the beauty of life itself. Readers completely unfamiliar with this sort of movie-of-the-week story might be entertained, but others will be in for a disappointment. While the writing is competent, the story is predictable and the characters overly familiar. Baldacci is a splendid writer when he has something to sink his teeth into. Here, he seems bored by his own story.

This review originally appeared in Booklist, March 2011.

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