The notion of the 'beach read' for me transcends past summer. Because even in the depths of winter, a good 'beach read' is just what you need to heat up your cold days and nights. Emily Giffin has basically perfected the 'chick lit' novel, and The One & Only is the latest shining example of this.
It takes place in a small town in the wake of the passing of a Coach Carr's beloved wife in the community, and best friend of their daughter, protagonist Shea is there to provide emotional support to Coach and daughter Lucy. Through the passion of football and the electricity of small town, Shea discovers something she never knew or expected about herself.
I don't care how unpredictable this novel became, I never wanted it to end, even though you could tell how would end in chapter two or three. Shea has her roots deeply seeded in her small Texas town, and her religion is devout college football-ism. From the start, Shea seems like the typical Southern girl, loves her town, dedicated to her friends, and her job at the college athletic department. She seems completely content with her job, but her sphere of influence has other plans. There's also a minute big city vs. small town congruence with Shea's estranged father and new family arriving to provide an outside influence to a rather closed-off character circle.
While the characters never go too deep, they are believable and definitely relatable enough, I easily personified Coach Carr, Shea, Lucy, and a few others early in the novel. It made the novel a quick and easy read, alongside wanting to see exactly how the ending would play out. There one minor issue with the novel that even with the label of 'beach read' or 'chick lit' was hard to get past. The issue was how a few plot lines later in the novel were way too easily solved. It was as if a couple of the characters completely changed as people or they were zapped with the memory-blasting gadget from Men In Black, just there could be a happy ending. While this irked me a bit at the end, I definitely enjoyed the ride of roller coaster emotions throughout.
With that aside, you do quickly fall head over heels for the notion of Shea and Coach Carr as a couple, and root for them as much as they root for their football team. Giffin does a great job about not making the entire story about their relationship and injects plenty of football jargon into the story, and even a few other romantic prospects to mess with our fragile hearts. You'll also find yourself wanting to shake the stupid out of some of Shea's decisions, but you can't look away from the disasters, including a few alcohol-powered moments, and there's some mano a mano conflict.
The underlying theme of the entire novel isn't 'will they' or 'won't they', or about the obvious age difference it's Shea's coming-of-age even if it's a bit later in life. She's forced to face her fears of commitment, future, and the unknown. It is something we all face, they proverbial cliff of 'What If?' and what will happen if you jump, fall, or are pushed over it. What she thinks she wants, may be out of pure comfort of the luxuries of a small town. You may even see a bit of yourself in Shea and Lucy.
beer pairing: Spoetzl Brewery - Shiner Bock
How could I not pair The One & Only with Shiner Bock, it's a supporting character in the novel. Coach and Shea kindle their relationship with this little friend making an appearance a few times. Like Shea, Shiner Bock is also born and brewed in a small Texas town. It's a Bock-style 'day' beer perfect for cheering on a college football team (just not UTexas if you ask anyone in this book). You might even feel like you're sitting on the Carr's porch in Texas while reading this book and taking a Shiner beer break.
Until next Happy Hour