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Porch Lights    by Dorothea Benton Frank order for
Porch Lights
by Dorothea Benton Frank
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

No one does comfort reading as well as Dorothea Benton Frank, who writes feel good novels with Southern warmth and style. Her latest, Porch Lights, is told in the alternating voices of Annie Britt (who of course lives on Sullivans Island) and her daughter, Jackie McMullen.

Jackie was recalled from duty as an army nurse in Afghanistan on the death of her firefighter husband Jimmy. Jackie and their ten-year-old son Charlie are devastated. Charlie had idolized his dad, and the changes in him are 'alarming and unnerving'. So, after a long phone call with her father, Jackie packs up the car and drives herself and Charlie south to the island, hoping that some of its magic will rub off on her son - 'two hurt birds flying back to the mother nest to heal.'

As is often the case with mother and daughter, there's a lot in Annie's lifestyle and life choices that Jackie views critically - 'She's too effusive, too dramatic, too fussy about the superficial and not fussy enough about other issues ...' Annie and her husband Buster have been living apart for almost eleven years - they're both lonely, and both stubborn in their isolation. Fortunately, Annie has Deb, her best friend, neighbor, and regular companion.

Of course, you can see where this is going - the island does work its magic and not only for Jackie and Charlie. Buster eventually finds his way home too. Another neighbor, Steve Plofker, the handsome physician whom both Annie and Deb have been eyeing with interest, plays a big role. And it's not all sunshine and summer breezes - there's sadness, suspense and drama along the road to recovery for all.

Porch Lights goes down as easily as one of the cocktails that Jackie and Annie share on their porch, watching the ocean waves - as well as recovery from loss, it addresses mother/daughter tension and how shared parenting experience can overwhelm it and make it irrelevant. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it as the perfect summer read.

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