Joe is the simple-minded and often bizarre twin, where Alvin is the more adventurous and imaginative of the two. Joe is thrust into a much more complicated life when Alvin disappears and finds himself driving from Los Angeles to Tennessee with Julia, Alvin's enigmatic girlfriend. Joe's new life involves expensive pin-striped suits, hotel swimming pools, and Julia's mysterious family. His whirlwind of events almost makes him forget what happened to his brother--almost. It is only with his newly found responsibilities that he acquires a curiosity surrounding what happened between Alvin and Julia, and the more time he spends with Julia, the deeper he falls in love with her.
While there are some hopeful elements throughout the novel, I finished the book feeling much like the protagonist, Joe, in a wishy-washy state wondering what I took away from this experience. The first two thirds of the book moved much slower than I expected. Much of the synopsis alludes to a mystery/thriller type story, but the pace only merits this distinction in the final chapters. Even when the climax is reached, it falls short of any expectations built up over the course of the story. Joe's dull nature even puts the reader in a daze, and supporting characters do not add much to the story. One bright spot is the beautiful, but destructive Julia. She is a mystery that the reader never fully understands, and this element added a level of intrigue to the otherwise lackluster plot. Despite the notable journey Joe has embarked on, I did not believe that his outlook genuinely changed, and this ultimately is the downfall of This One Time With Julia.
Reviewer City, State and Country: Eden Prairie, Minnesota United States