Now please be advised, readers, that Diva defines a one-hit wonder not as an author with a single successful book but as a writer who wrote what I deem to be one and only one excellent book after reading others in their canon.
Feel free to dispute my selections--some obscure, some revered--but be armed with the title of another good book he/she wrote.
1. Whitney Otto
The Book of Superior Perfection: How to Make an American Quilt
Dismal 1995 film adaptation notwithstanding, this collection of stories examines the defining events in the lives of a group of women who quilt together in Grasse, California as they make a wedding quilt for Finn Bennett Dodd, the granddaughter of one of the members. Sophia Darling, the first story, is my favorite--romantic, true, and devastating. Seriously--anyone who can describe a seventeen year old as having a heart that "resembled nothing so much as a badly-formed arrow, all rough edges and sharpness" had incredible potential writing for women.
The Letdowns: The Passion Dream Book (the first 50 pages are great, too bad she abandons all the characters in the Renaissance era prologue to focus on an interracial couple in a dull and pedantic story. A Collection of Beauties at the Height of their Popularity is the only book I have ever actually marched to the counter of a bookstore with and demanded my money back BECAUSE IT WAS SO BAD. If I wanted to read about a bunch of drugged out promiscuous people doing lines of cocaine off someone's daughter's school picture, I'd be a very different person. Since I'm me, I required my $12 back and got it.
2. Tracy Chevalier
The Book of Superior Perfection: Girl With a Pearl Earring
Another book whose movie I disliked--Colin Firth in an impossibly bushy red wig seemed ineffectual and rather like he was, um, ogling a very very young girl whilst married. The novel, however, explores Griet's coming of age as a housemaid who falls in love with Vermeer, poses for his painting, and is cast out in disgrace. The descriptions are vivid and Griet's inner life is observant and honest. Plus, great last line..."A maid comes free."
The Letdowns: The Lady and the Unicorn--Chevalier's other attempt to enliven a famed artwork came across as lewd and annoying. The tapestry guy uses a rather icky unicorn story as a pickup line. It's not pretty. Also, Falling Angels which centers around a cemetery but meanders dully until my favorite character, Ivy Mae, gets raped and strangled at a suffragist rally. Horrible, horrible, horrible.
3. Beth Gutcheon
The Book of Superior Perfection: More than You Know
I reviewed this here and it's one of the most romantic novels I've ever read. No disclaimer, no warnings, just a stunning love story with a malevolent ghost in the mix. I could quote the luminous writing for hours.
The Letdowns: Domestic Pleasures--only one chapter of this book had a taste of the magic of MTYK. The rest of it is about a single mother reeling from her ex-husband's death and getting involved with his bastard lawyer. Leeway Cottage--again, the chapter about Nina before she gets stuck in the concentration camp is lovely but the rest of the book vacillates from a dreadful marriage to brutal scenes in said camp. She wrote a sequel to this which I felt it unnecessary to explore since I hated all of the characters both individually and as a group.
4. John Steinbeck
Book of Superior Perfection: East of Eden
One of my favorites ever, this ambitious allegory of Cain and Abel follows three generations of the Trask family: jaunty one-legged egomaniac Cyrus, his sons the brutal Charles and apathetic Adam who are trashed by devil allegory Cathy, and Adam and Cathy's twins Cal and Aron. Cal Trask is the first character I ever read of whom I truly thought: I am him. That is me. Not Anne Shirley nor Laura Ingalls, my perennial favorites, could compete with the shattered depths of my identification with Cal.
The Letdowns: Of Mice and Men (unengaging and depressing), To a God Unknown (egotistical and damn creepy), Cup of Gold (practically nonsensical), Winter of Our Discontent (smug and self-aggrandizing), The Grapes of Wrath (tragic and miserable without loveliness), et. al.