Book Review: Just One Note by Susan Wells Bennett
It feels like a time for quiet and reflection today. My pen name has been busy “living it up so that I can write it down”, and now I am definitely ready to step away, sit back and just relax and catch my mental breath. I’ve just finished reading my friend Susan Wells Bennett’s just released new novel Just One Note. My first full-time adult job was as a bookseller in a big store on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. In that era before computers and WordPress were even a vision anyone was working on, I wrote reviews or notes about every book that I read in a bound notebook, which I’m sorry to say I somehow lost somewhere along the longish road of my life so far. One of the first novels I wrote about in that journal was Ken Grimwood’s Replay. The idea was that the main character kept getting to live portions of his life over and over again.
I don’t offhand recall what if any sort of logical or technical explanation Grimwood provided for the unbelievable fact that the guy got to live the same life over and over again, with the knowledge of future events and everything else he learned the first time he lived through those years. I seem to recall the why and how of the whole thing being a mystery to reader and character both. But if you could get past that deus ex machina conceit it really was fascinating to see how differently the character lived out his life each time, and how much seemingly small choices that one obscure man made changed the whole course of history each and every time. Susan’s Just One Note seemed to me very much in the same vein.
“What if, on a particular day in the future, you could send an email that would change your past? What would you change? How many lifetimes would it take for your life to be perfect?”
Diana is an 81 year old woman in a nursing home who spent her life as a wife to her high school sweetheart and mother of three children and she gave up what she really believed could have been a successful career as a singer and entertainer to do so. On a certain date in 2069 she sends herself an e-mail to a certain date in the past. And that Just One Note really does change everything. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out how it turns out, but Bennett’s prose flows so smoothly that I found myself reading along, ever anxious to find out how things were going to turn out. I have to admit that when Susan told me she was taking a break from the Brass Monkey novels to write something else, I was just the tiniest bit sorry that I could not look forward to reading more about those characters any time soon. But this novel it seems to me is both longer and more complex than any of the Brass Monkey books and I can really see how much Susan is really growing into the novelist’s craft. I honestly can’t wait to see what she writes next.