An irresistible force (i.e. a claustrophobic rolling stone) and an immoveable object (i.e. an agoraphobic widow) collide in Lippi’s good-natured novel.
Similar in format to Tied to the Tracks (2006, etc.), Lippi’s latest finds an entire community serving as backdrop to a teasingly drawn-out courtship. The gossipy population of Lamb’s Corner, S.C., has plenty to say about handsome, single John Dodge when he takes over Scriveners, a specialty shop at the upscale Lambert Square shopping development. Moving into the apartment over the shop, Dodge becomes a neighbor of Julia Darrow, who owns adjacent Cocoon, a store selling antique linens, where both the owner and the staff wear a uniform of pajamas. The strong sexual attraction between Dodge and Julia quickly develops into an affair which is a secret from nobody. Dodge has a reputation for moving on once he’s turned his latest business around, partly due to claustrophobic panic attacks. Julia is the opposite—incapable of leaving Lamb’s Corner because of the traumatic events surrounding her husband’s death. There’s an inconsistent subplot involving an influx of Swedes, who arrive to build a car-assembly plant, but Julia and Dodge’s stuttering, sometimes exasperating involvement is the main focus, and it finally comes into full bloom at Christmas, when the principals throw caution to the wind.
Generous servings of affectionate wit and charm don’t wholly compensate for the slender, overstretched story line.