#FridayReads: Porch Lights

When Jimmy McMullen, a fireman with the NYFD, 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.

Crossing the bridge from the mainland, Jackie and Charlie enter a world full of wonder and magic — lush green and chocolate grasslands and dazzling red, orange, and magenta evening skies; the heady pungency of Lowcountry Pluff mud and fresh seafood on the grill; bare toes snuggled in warm sand and palmetto fronds swaying in gentle ocean winds.
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 again, 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, like all mothers and daughters, have been known to have frequent and notorious 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 devilishly tasty widowed physician next door, to keep her distracted as well.

There are very few books that I read and wonder, “I wonder if that experience would have been better as an audiobook?” But as I read Porch Lights, I almost needed to hear the accents. Maybe if someone read them to me, it wouldn’t seem so weirdly formal as written–the dialogue just seemed absolutely ridiculous.

The plot itself wasn’t so bad. Girl has tragedy, goes home to mama for awhile, finds comfort on a seaside island. The characters were fun and engaging. However, the conversations they had just stuck in my craw. Do people in Charleston low-country REALLY talk like that? I know southern accents are slower, and their manners are old. But, really? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a 10 year old talk that way.

This is one of those “good for you, not for me” books. Dorothea Benton Frank is a best selling author, and her reviews are fantastic, so I’m in the minority here. I can understand why her books are popular–this would make a great summer beach or pool read. I just couldn’t get past the dialogue.

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