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Porch Lights: A Novel Paperback – Large Print, July 3, 2012
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From the Back Cover
When Jimmy McMullen, a fireman, is killed in the line of duty, his wife, Jackie, and ten-year-old son, Charlie, are devastated. Charlie idolized his dad, and now the outgoing, curious boy has become quiet and reserved. Trusting in the healing power of family, Jackie decides to return to her childhood home on Sullivans Island.
Awaiting them is Annie Britt, the family matriarch who has kept the porch lights on to welcome them home. Thrilled to have her family back, Annie promises to make their visit perfect—even though relations between mother and daughter have never been what you'd call smooth. Over the years, Jackie and Annie have been known to have frequent differences of opinion. But her estranged and wise husband, Buster, and her flamboyant and funny best friend Deb are sure to keep Annie in line. She's also got Steven Plofker—the flirtatious and tasty widowed physician next door, to keep her distracted.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.
Top customer reviews
I was impressed that Ms Frank not only correctly detailed parts of what being in Afghanistan is like for our military (the diet, disappearing skivs, bereavement/emergency leave, the Taliban and their evil practices, the attitudes of some non-military people, etc), but she also wrote Jackie as a person with real and very personal problems: Overwhelming grief, being a strong mother, deployments, family problems with her own parents, and the ability to stow all of these potentially overwhelming crises into a foot locker (so to speak) for future examination. The flaw in this depiction, to me, is that the military provides HOURS of mental health education in order to promote recognition of possible mental distress, so, paired with her being a nurse, I felt some sort of assistance would (or should) have been sought by Jackie for both herself and Charlie.
One of the main complaints that some readers had of this book is that Jackie was able to meet and develop feelings for another man so quickly after her husband's death. I, too, raised my eyebrows at the extraordinary speed of her new relationship. I think that DBF was trying to speak to Jackie's inner strength at being able to move on from personal tragedy, as well as addressing Jackie's dream about receiving a gift from her deceased husband as Low Country Prophecy, and that the author needed to fit these things into the story... even if it was done a bit too quickly.
Another complaint is that the book is too predictable, and it was pretty predictable, but I also feel that the important parts of the story were the messages of what being a military member in a war zone is like, what being the mother of a military member is like, repairing a marriage, bereavement, flagging self-esteem as we age, love and joy, humor, and finding one's way back to the light with the help of family and friends. Were some of the solutions pretty convenient? Sure they were, but I appreciated the details of the book more than I was irritated at the convenience and predictability.
Jackie decides that she can escape the haunting memories and heal her son's broken heart by returning to the Lowcountry, to the home in which she grew up and to her mildly dysfunctional relationship with her parents.
Shortly after Jackie and her son reach South Carolina, however, we learn that they aren't the only ones who need healing. An eventful summer capped by an approaching hurricane (these storms are de rigueur when writing about the South Carolina coast) forces everyone to confront their emotional crises in their own individual ways.
This book was an enjoyable read, though Franks' early books seemed stronger to me. I was so disappointed in "Folly Beach" that I came close to passing on this one.
I'm glad I didn't. Though "Porch Lights" isn't her strongest, it does mark a return to her strengths of understanding relationships and of women helping women. I tripped over more than a few of Franks' storytelling decisions here, but I still enjoyed the book. It's an entertaining read that'll please fans of chick lit without demanding a huge emotional investment.