I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, and I finally managed to do it. This is another case of misleading everything. Look at that cover with the happy headless girl acting all playful with Mr. Headless, so cute, right? (1) Wrong! This book is a sappy, drama infested, sob-fest. It’s also the most addictive book I’ve read this year, couldn’t stop reading it even if I kept thinking: “now what!?” Just keep reading and see.
One More Summer has an ensemble cast, although there are two clear main characters, but every one of them has a story and a journey to make. Grace, our heroine, had a terrible life. First she was the plain baby sister living in the shadow of her older siblings: Steven the intelligent and Faith the beautiful. Then her mother died and she was left living with a father who, for some reason, hated her. When her siblings left and her father got sick, she took care of him. Now the father is dead and she’s alone in a house that slowly fills with a bunch of people (that would be our ensemble cast).
Her brother, who worries about her, asks his childhood friend, Dillon, to go take care of her. Dillon is a famous and tormented writer (and also rich, because when book characters are authors, being rich, sad and famous, comes with the job) who has sweet memories of the small town where he grew up, but is weary of Steven’s little sister because his memories of her are of a sad, plain girl, who stoically endured her father’s abuse. And oh yes, also because he stood her up on her prom’s night. The rest you know how it goes, she resents him, he thinks she’s a bitch, they fall madly in love and fight all the way to the happily ever after. But in the middle of it there are a lot of secrets and pain to overcome. (2)
Promise is the other main-ish character (that’s her name, Promise). She’s Gracie’s best friend and Steven’s high school sweetheart. They have been together for years and yet haven’t managed to get married (I’m talking about Pomise and Stephen, not Promise and Grace). She’s battling cancer and she’s staying at Grace’s so that she has some help. Stephen is a surgeon married to his job and Promise can’t deal with being second-best, so she doesn’t tell him right away. Once he finds, though, he also moves in.
Finally, we have Jonah and Maxie, the elderly residents. Maxie can’t live alone because her mind wanders from time to time, and Jonah lost all his money so Gracie gave him shelter. Jonah is in love with Maxie, but she doesn’t know it. One would think this is the sweet romance in the story, but one would be wrong, the drama infestation also touches these two.
And so we have a story with different characters and personalities that are connected through family and friendship, but also through secrets and pain. They all have an important role in the book and in each other’s lives.
I know the description is long but there is a lot going on in this book. The main thing you should know is that the story is all over the place but it’s compelling and addictive. It’s one of those “unputdownable” books. The heroine is a martyr but she’s so headstrong that I didn’t feel sorry for her and I didn’t find her annoying. What I did find annoying was how self-sacrificing she was. No one is like that. Yes, her father beat into her all those feeling of inadequacy so she was afraid to drive people away, but her best friend loved her. She had to realize she was lovable because of a man? Can’t friendship do that as well? So her martyr act and what ultimately changed her annoyed me, but she didn’t. If that makes sense.
The hero was a sweetheart and I liked him very much. I also liked all the secondary characters, Promise in particular. I found her struggle with cancer very touching. I also enjoyed the recurrent theme of the book about imperfect love stories, about romance that’s not as neat as in novels, about relationships that are messy and hard work.
There’s one thing that bothered me and made me really uncomfortable. This is a huge spoiler, although, to be honest, if you pick up the book you will be able to tell what happens almost immediately. Gracie goes through a lot: her mother died, her father blamed her and beat her, the love of her life stood her up on the biggest night, her best friend has cancer, she’s ugly, she has no style, she’s collects cats so she has someone to grow old with, etc. But I’ll take it, the book was entertaining so I won’t complain, angst and drama well-done is good even when exaggerated. However, there’s one thing that I found unbelievable and just plain terrible:
When she was twelve, her father raped her, the next day Promise’s parents found her and took her to the hospital where they insisted on calling the police, but Grace said no. Promise’s parents -and I’m guessing the doctors as well- agreed to not calling anyone. They threatened the father so he never raped her again, but that was it. How is this possible? What loving parent agrees to not call the police, and then sends the child back to live with the monster? I was baffled and disgusted. The rape was predictable, but I thought no one knew, when I read the whole story I felt sick. I won’t lie, it ruined the story, I’ll take unbelievable, but not when it comes to this.
*** END OF SPOILER***
Overall, this was an interesting book. I found the story engrossing, readable, angsty and sappy, and I loved Ms. Flaherty’s voice. Fans of drama and contemporary romance should be able to enjoy it, but I recommend reading the spoiler and see how you feel about it. That spoiler is the reason I’m giving this book a 3, and I think the grading should be lower. I think the good by far outweighs the bad, until you hit the spoiler, then I’m not so sure.
(1) There’s a scene in the book where the hero pinches her dress like the guy is doing on the cover, so that’s something accurate at least. I remember this because I finished the book 2 seconds ago, I don’t have a miraculous memory or anything.
(2) I finished the book 2 seconds ago and yet I managed to write Stephen instead of Steven.
Review by Brie
Grace has taken care of her widowed father her entire adult life and the ornery old goat has finally died. She has no job, no skills and very little money, and has heard her father's prediction that no decent man would ever want her so often she accepts it as fact.
But she does have a big old house on Lawyers Row in Peacock, Tennessee. She opens a rooming house and quickly gathers a motley crew of tenants: Promise, Grace's best friend since kindergarten, who's fighting cancer; Maxie, an aging soap opera actress who hasn't lost her flair for the dramatic; Jonah, a sweet, gullible old man with a crush on Maxie.
And Dillon, Grace's brother's best friend, who stood her up on the night of her senior prom and has regretted it ever since. Dillon rents Grace's guest house for the summer and hopes to make up for lost time and past hurts—but first, he'll have to convince Grace that she's worth loving...
September 16, 2010.