Friday Book Whimsy: The Color of Light

740854Jillian Parrish is divorced, pregnant, and understandably unhappy with her situation. She decides to move, along with her 7-year-old daughter Grace, back to her grandmother’s house on Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. The house was Jillian’s only escape from a terribly unhappy childhood in Charleston where she lived with her mother and father.

And so begins author Karen White’s novel The Color of Light, a novel I’m afraid I found to be mostly forgettable. And since White has become one of my favorite authors, I was hugely disappointed by my lack of interest in Jillian’s life.

During Jillian’s formative years, her very best friend on Pawley’s Island – Lauren – disappears and is never found. Lauren’s boyfriend Linc is initially suspected, but there is never evidence to support his involvement, and eventually the case fades away. Jillian moves away, marries a man she doesn’t love, has a daughter – Grace —  and gets pregnant again, about the same time that Grace begins having conversations with an invisible friend named (you guessed it) Lauren. This brings Jillian back to Pawley’s Island.

Perhaps White tried to stuff too many gimmicks into one novel. The Color of Light is a romance novel, a ghost story, a coming-of-age story, and a tale of an unhappy childhood. Though all of White’s novels (or at least all that I have read) involved a romance, none that I have read thus far has the romance as front-and-center as it is in this book. I am not opposed to romance in a novel – in fact, I rather enjoy a love story – I personally don’t want it to drive the story. I felt as though this novel might as well have had heaving bosoms on the cover. And let’s face it, no one is as beautiful as Linc found Jillian, both when she was pregnant and when he would blissfully watch her while nursing the new baby. Because seriously, in real life, nursing involves leaky breasts and exhausted mothers.

The Color of Light was predictable and uninteresting. Except, of course, for the setting, which was spectacular. White does such a good job of painting a picture with words when describing life on the islands in the Low Country of South Carolina.

I found myself wondering throughout the book just why a particular story line was necessary. For example, I never really understood the point of making Jillian be pregnant, unless it was simply so that Linc could help her walk, well, anywhere really since she apparently couldn’t walk by herself because of her physical state. Really? In Pearl S. Buck’s novel The Good Earth, O-Lan is working in the fields and goes inside the house, gives birth, wraps the baby up in a blanket, and goes back to work!

I will continue to enjoy Karen White’s books, because even in this one book of hers that I haven’t liked, I continued to read it because I find White’s writing to be exceptional. I just felt this wasn’t her best effort.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: The Hurricane Sisters

searchI have always enjoyed novels by Dorothea Benton Frank, whose book settings are always somewhere in the Low Country of South Carolina. Her characters are always strong, if somewhat quirky, women, and the island settings always become at least a character of sorts. I always leave the story wishing I lived on an island off the coast of South Carolina, where I could just pop over the bridge and be in Savannah or Charleston.

However, The Hurricane Sisters fell significantly short of being a novel worth reading. Its only redeeming characteristic was that the settings were Charleston and the family home on Sullivans Island. Frank’s description of life on Sullivans Island made me want to pack up and move there. I could almost hear the ocean waves.

The storyline takes on the difficult subject of domestic violence. I would have preferred that the author write a nonfiction account of a serious problem that is apparently becoming more and more common in South Carolina. Addressing the subject in a weak fictional story almost seemed silly.

Frank presents three generations of Pringle women – Maisie, the matriarch; Liz, her daughter; and Ashley, Liz’s daughter whose desire is to make a career out of her talent for painting. Maisie is the strong-willed character always present in Frank’s novels, and really the only character who rang true at all. Liz is caught in a marriage that has lost its zing, and she compensates by putting all her efforts and emotions into her job at a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic violence, while at the same time ignoring her husband’s philandering. Ashley lives in the family home on Sullivans Island, and couldn’t possibly be a sillier character. Though apparently a smart and gifted artist, she spends the entire book mooning after a handsome state senator who is headed for greater things (the White House) despite the fact that he is clearly a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

It is simply laughable that Liz, who is so committed to fighting domestic violence simply dismisses Ashley’s roommate Mary Ellen’s attempt to convince her that the senator is abusive. Simply wouldn’t happen.

So many of Frank’s earlier novels are so much better. If you are interested in reading books with beautiful settings and interesting characters, pick one of her earlier novels such as Sullivan’s Island or Plantation.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Amazon here.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Barnes and Noble here.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Tattered Cover here.

Buy The Hurricane Sisters from Changing Hands here.