These cool, "getting-darker-earlier" evenings have had me reading on the deck and moving into the living room the last few evenings. After I clean up the kitchen and go power-walking or biking (if it wasn't done in the early morning), I like to sit with a mug of coffee or herbal tea and read for an hour....pleasure reading). I don't get to do this as much in the school year due to my 14 yr old's extra-curricular activities and needing to work on my small group lesson preparations which requires a lot of Bible reading, study book reading, etc.
So I am savoring these last weeks of summer with good fiction!
This one is another gem.
The McMullen family lives in Brooklyn. Jimmy and Jackie have been happily married and busy in their careers and in the raising of their 10 year old son, Charlie. Jimmy is a firefighter with the NYFD and Jackie is an army reserve nurse working at her 3rd tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Jackie has to rush home because Jimmy has been killed in the line of duty.....a terrible fire. Charlie and Jackie are absolutely devastated. Charlie has always been outgoing and curious about everything but he now becomes withdrawn and very quiet.
Jackie decides to go back to her childhood home on Sullivans Island (South Carolina) which is considered Low Country. It is vastly different from life in NYC.
Jackie's mom, Annie Britt, has kept her porch lights on to welcome them home. South Carolina, and particularly Sullivans Island, is intoxicating. Everything is a lush green with dazzling sunsets and the smell of the salt water and fresh grilled seafood is healing.
Annie is thrilled to have her family home again. Her relationship with Jackie hasn't always been smooth over the years and she is determined that this will change. She wants everything to be perfect. Her estranged husband (they have been separated for 11 years), Buster and her funny best friend Deb, help to keep Annie in line. They totally embrace Jackie and Charlie and start to help them heal from the sudden death of Jimmy.
Annie has a bit of a crush on the young, attractive, widowed doctor who lives next door. Steven is flirtatious and soon Jackie realizes that he is interested in her. But she is too soon a widow to even contemplate another relationship. Charlie adores Steve, Deb's pies, the attentions of his "Glam-Ma" and "Guster" his grandpa and is just loving life on the island. He does not want to go back to NYC at the end of the summer.
Jackie, meanwhile, starts to volunteer at the VA hospital nearby and realizes that life with her mother is not too bad. They are both different in their years of growth and respectful of each other as moms. Jackie realizes that her mother is trying hard to win her over so she will decide to stay on Sullivans Island and not go back to Brooklyn.
Meanwhile, Charlie is growing more emotionally stable and has met some new friends and begins a little job of taking care of Steve's dogs while Steve is at work. The responsibility has been great for Charlie and they form a quick bond. It is clear that Steve really cares about Charlie and it soon become evident that he cares for Jackie as well.
Meanwhile, Buster has moved back in "The Salty Dog" as the old homestead is called, and Annie is not minding it at all. She realizes they do still love each other....but she has Buster staying in the guest room thinking that he is only there to help out with Jackie and Charlie.
At the end of the summer, Jackie feels like they must return to their life in NYC....because that is where Jimmy is. Annie reminds Jackie that Jimmy is in heaven...that only his remains are buried in Brooklyn. But Jackie packs up the car and is ready to leave when all of a sudden a fierce hurricane is upon them and Charlie is missing!
Steve and Jackie head over to Goldbug Island (named for Edgar Allen Poe's story, The Gold-Bug, which Charlie and Glam-Ma have been reading together) while the rest of the family and Deb and Steve deal with informing the police that Charlie is missing.
Steve and Jackie find him in the clubhouse with a broken wrist and it is at this point that Jackie realizes she really is home. She is going to stay on Sullivans Island and see what the future brings.
Everyone is thrilled! Annie and Buster are back together as husband and wife and enjoying their evenings on the porch. Steve and Jackie become engaged and Charlie loves his new school and life on the island.
My story summary is just a quick preview of the actual plot. This book is really a gem. The author points out in her notes that she was really inspired by porch lights. She has always loved the idea that people leave their porch lights on to receive visitors after dark or for waiting for someone to return safely home. She also grew up on an island with a lighthouse whose beam direct boats and guides them. Light is a symbol of welcome, safety and anticipation. She was also inspired by Edgar Allen Poe who really did live on Sullivans Island for some time. I liked that at the start of each chapter, the author included a snippet from Poe's work, The Gold-Bug.
Each chapter is a different voice, alternating between Jackie and Annie. The character development is rich and the author's use of descriptive words really stood out to me in the setting and character's personalities. She also uses a lot of humor, particularly between the Annie and Deb relationship and the Annie and Buster relationship.
This book talks about familial love and lasting friendships. The theme of the family bond is evident throughout the entire story.
The last sentence in the book was my favorite:
"And love is the most powerful and wondrous gift in the world. Yes, it is."
(pg 319, Porch Lights, c .2012)
In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.