Jillian 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.