Tag Archives: Southern culture

“Porch Lights” by Dorothea Benton Frank

Porch Lights: A Novel

Genre: cozy southern chick lit. What else do I need to say?

This book takes place on a coastal island near Charleston, South Carolina. It’s narrated alternately by a mother and daughter. I found the daughter, Jackie, to be the more sympathetic character. Jackie and her (deceased) husband were professional risk takers – she as an Army nurse (several times deployed to Afghanistan) and he as a New York city firefighter. His tragic death causes Jackie to end her military career in order to care for their ten year old son Charlie.

Jackie takes Charlie to her childhood home on in South Carolina. Her relationship with her (estranged) parents is tense. But all is resolved, Jackie finds a new relationship, and the family lives happily ever after. A bit sentimental, but pleasant. Just the book you want for a rainy afternoon or a pandemic. 


“Flora – a novel” by Gail Godwin

I loved this book! It was another of those recommended by my friend who participates in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society book club (see July 1).

This story takes the form of a memoir. The narrator is an elderly woman looking back into her childhood. Helen was a precocious ten year old being raised by her father and grandmother. Toward the end of World War II, her grandmother dies and her father departs to work on construction at the site in Oak Ridge, TN, where the United States is building “the bomb”.

Helen’s father enlists a relative (Flora) to come and stay with Helen for the summer. Everything goes wrong for Helen, climaxing in a fatal auto accident for which Helen feels responsible.

What’s good about this book?

It takes a child seriously. Helen works hard at figuring out her family and her friendships.

This book contains wonderful “sub stories”. Helen and her grandmother have been in the habit of listening to radio dramas. Two are recounted in the story. Helen creates a classroom full of imaginary children to help Flora prepare for her career as a teacher.

What I can’t figure out is why the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society would choose this book. It has almost nothing to do with gardens or plants. Helen cuts down some grass with kitchen scissors. An old path is overgrown with weeds. I must be missing something important. Flora is a lovely name, but there must be more than that!

I enjoyed Godwin’s “The Good Husband” about ten years ago, and plan to look at more of her writing.