A man looks back at his past after finding out he has about a year left to live in this novel.
When Lassiter “Last” Chance Barkley is diagnosed with cancer, his thoughts turn immediately to those who might be most affected by the news, and all of the tragedies that he and his girlfriend, Mandy, suffered through in the six years they’d been together. They’d lost friends and family members; some went quickly and others lingered painfully. Barkley is determined to figure out how to make his own last year as painless as he can and to prepare Mandy and his family, including his daughter and stepdaughter from a previous relationship, for life without him. He wants Mandy to be independent and set up an antique shop to support herself, somewhere out of the reach of her prying mother. To that end, Barkley buys a camper and they set out on a road trip, landing in North Carolina at the shop and estate of Greta Ann Foy, who served as a psychic in the Army. Greta tells them that she’d been waiting for them, and it seems like destiny as Barkley and Mandy buy Greta’s place and gather their family around them in an ideal, ocean-side setting where they can be together until Barkley passes. After a dark start, when it’s uncertain how Barkley will handle the news of his diagnosis, the book brightens up considerably. The focus of the novel moves from death to life as Greta orchestrates Barkley and Mandy’s wedding and the children move into the house. Everything works out to near-perfection and the family plants roots that will last after Barkley is gone. It may end a little too pleasantly for some readers, in fact, as most every possible conflict melts away once Greta is in the picture. The descriptions of the family holidays are warm and cozy, spiced up a little bit by the eccentric locals, but are otherwise fairly typical. The characters grow to be successful but the story rarely delves too far under the surface to show their inner workings. Overall, the book is remarkably drama-free and much lighter than one might expect.
An apple-spiced, feel-good story that’s more about life than about death.