Just One Thing
A widow is wooed out of her melancholy by a war veteran bartender who only asks that she tell him “just one thing” when she stops by his bar every Monday.
Artist Lexie McCain’s children are worried about her uncharacteristic funk after their father dies in an accident. Lexie has holed up in her studio away from town and friends which is very unusual. After they’ve harassed her sufficiently, Lexie agrees to walk into the nearby small town of Lapp Mill, Pennsylvania, at least once a week. She decides to go on non-busy Monday and makes her destination The Corner Bar, a low-key pub-like establishment where she has one beer and then walks home.
What she doesn’t count on is proprietor Sam Corner who challenges her to tell him “just one thing” in exchange for her beer. Lexie agrees to play Sam’s game and starts by telling him her name. What unfolds are memories based on the “one thing” Lexie and then Sam let escape from their lips including the painful deaths of Lexie’s father, daughter, and finally husband and Sam’s traumatic time in the service.
Lexie, who’s been a good wife, mother, and art instructor, is floundering, but not morose to the point of being suicidal. In fact, she knows she’s got to climb out of her current depression and as therapy starts weaving a tapestry depicting scenes from her life in it.
She’s a strong, likeable character, a woman without pretensions and with a solid sense of self. Like most of us when a life-changing event happens, she realizes she needs to pick herself up, dust herself off, and forge on with life. But her husband’s death has hit her harder then those of her beloved father and daughter.
Sam is a little more difficult to know and like since his role at the beginning of the book seems to be more of catalyst than sympathetic character. Consequently, when Lexie challenges him to tell her “one thing,” his opening up comes a little too late. It’s as if an inanimate object has suddenly come to life.
Fortunately, the clever way that Jacobs tells her story is intriguing enough to keep readers solidly in her corner. From asking what the next “one thing” Lexie or Sam will spill and the back story to that “thing” to the meshing of their current lives, the novel flows, never bogging down with excessive pathos, but still poignant enough to illustrate how both of them have come to the end of their tether and need a moment to step back and regroup.
Make no mistake: This is a multi-hanky book with all the tragedy ringing true with only a couple of glitches. While filled with sadness, it’s also a story replete with hope – a true romance in every aspect.