Porch Lights by Dorothea Benton Frank

Another great story by one of my favorite authors. As with her other books, reading Porch Lights made me long to visit the South Carolina Lowcountry, specifically Sullivan's Island, the setting for most of her books and where the author was born and raised. The way she describes the grasslands, amazing sunsets, and the gentle ocean breezes make it sound like paradise. The story begins with Jackie McMullen and her ten-year-old son, Charlie, returning to her childhood home on Sullivan's island, hoping to use the healing power of family to help deal with the death of Jimmy McMullen, Jackie's husband and Charlie's father. Killed in the line of duty with the NYFD, Jimmy's death has left them both devastated. Jackie, a Army nurse stationed in Afghanistan, has rushed home to New York from her tour of duty to care for her son. But, despite Jackie's best efforts, Charlie has become quiet and reserved, nothing like the curious and outgoing boy he was before this awful turn of events.

On the island waits Annie Britt, Jackie's mother, and her father, Buster, who have been separated for eleven years. They still harbor deep feelings for each other, though neither one will admit it. The lively bantering between them, when they are forced to speak to each other, adds just the right touch of humor to the story. There is tension between Jackie and her mother, yet the common bond of their love for Charlie helps them overcome the issues in their past. Annie is a font of information for Charlie, telling him all about the Lowcountry ways, the battles that took place in the area during the Revolution, and about local celebrity Edgar Allen Poe. What was unique about this book is that the beginning of each chapter in Porch Lights highlights a passage from the short story "The Gold Bug" written by Poe, a former resident of Sullivan's Island. Scattered throughout the book are interesting facts about Poe and his life on the island, cleverly inserted through words of wisdom passed from a grandmother to her grandson. If you enjoy light romance, family involvement and the role mother nature plays in bringing a family together, this is the book for you.

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