Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Porch Lights" by Dorothea Benton Frank ~ Review

Jimmy McCullen and his wife Jackie both have careers where they take their life in their hands.  Jimmy is a firefighter with the FDNY and Jackie is an army nurse who has finished 3 seven month tours of Afghanistan.    Jimmy plays the role of father and mother to their son, Charlie,  while Jackie is gone and they are a close knit family.  When Jimmy is killed in a horrendous fire both Jackie and Charlie are understandably devastated.  Finding it hard to move on and watching her happy, active and outgoing boy turn quiet and inward, Jackie decides to spend the summer on Sullivan's Island with her mother.  Hoping it will bring some healing time for her son, Jackie wonders how she herself will get along with her mom.   They are incredibly different people and Jackie feels her mom has never understood her or her choice of career.  

Annie is thrilled to have Jackie and Charlie coming home and fully prepares the house including turning the porch lights on until they make the long trip from New York.   Her quirky friend Deb helps her but Annie was not expecting the help of her estranged husband who walked out of her life 11 years ago.  While not together, they have not divorced and it stirs up her aggravation at him all over again when he comes back into their lives.  Add in Jackie's blaming  of her mother for the separation and it makes for awkward family relationships.  But for the sake of her grandson, who desperately needs the loving influence of his grandfather, Annie gives in to his presence in their lives.  Add in a good looking, single doctor who lives next door who Annie and Deb tease each other about and it becomes quite the summer.

It took me a long time to get into the book.   The story is told from the viewpoint of Jackie and Annie alternating  between chapters.    Once I got past the first few chapters and got used to the "voice" that was telling the story it became better reading for me.  Each chapter has a verse that starts it off from Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Gold Bug" which is also worked into the main storyline.  In all honesty, not a thing that appeals to me as a reader and I found myself skipping that beginning verse.    I did, however, like how who Edgar Allan Poe was and what he had to do with the island and how that  was worked into the storyline.  Very interesting.   Another thing that I couldn't really get into in the story was the constant mention of alcohol and it's consumption.  They forever seemed to be purchasing booze for the bar, setting up the bar, deciding what drink to have and this part of the story, to me,  got to be unnecessary.  What I did like about the story was the lovely descriptions of the South and island life, the occasional humor that made me laugh out loud and the underlying love beneath the family issues that caused one woman to hang onto the hope of eventually seeing her family back together.   

Review is linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books  


Barbara H. said...

I'd be interested in the Poe tie-in. Not the drinking, though. :-)

nikkipolani said...

Funny how certain repeating elements get to be so grating. I love the Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter series, but the films had smoking or drinking in EVERY scene. You'd think it was product placement ;-)

Thanks for the review, Susanne. The premise sounds interesting.

Faith said...

i read that book and I remember it took a bit for me to get into it too. I don't remmember about the drinking but i do remember I enjoyed the Poe stuff and I liked the descriptions of southern living. I just finished an EXCELLENT although a bit disturbing, book. thank God its' fiction!!!! LOL

Deb said...

I'm not a drinker so the constant drinking in the book might be distracting for me as well. Thanks for the review. I probably won't put this one on my "to read" list.

Karen said...

Interesting, how there are so many different components to this book. It sounds intriguing, even though I'm not a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. Maybe it would help me understand him better. The setting sounds nice, and I like books that are written in alternating viewpoints, if it's done right. I always enjoy your reviews.