Title: The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 418 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Tradd Street series comes a stunning new novel about a young single mother who discovers that the nature of friendship is never what it seems….
Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.
Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.
Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.
In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women….
The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White is a captivating novel of new beginnings and friendship.
Following her divorce from her husband of eleven years, Merilee Dunlap and her two children, ten old year Lily and eight year old Colin, move into a cottage behind a farmhouse in Sweet Apple, GA. Her ninety-three year old landlady Sugar Prescott is surprisingly spry, mentally sharp and somewhat outspoken. Sugar and Merilee strike up an unlikely friendship in spite of Sugar’s reluctance to become involved with the divorcee and her kids. Despite not quite fitting in with the other wealthy suburban moms at her children’s private school, Merilee is soon fast friends with Heather Blackford, wife to Dr. Daniel Blackburn and mother of two. Merilee has also caught the eye of Sugar’s best friend’s grandson Wade Kimball but she is not quite ready to reenter the dating scene. Sugar tries to warn Merilee that Heather might have an ulterior motive for befriending her but will Merilee heed her friend’s advice to not be quite so trusting?
Merilee is still reeling from her unexpected divorce and she is rather vulnerable as she starts her life over. She is a little concerned about how recent events have affected Lily and she makes every effort to keep her daughter from worrying too much about the changes to their lives. On the other hand, Colin is quite resilient and he loves exploring his new surroundings. While their move has gone fairly smoothly, Merilee is a little overwhelmed by her responsibilities as a single mom. Despite her natural reticence to discuss about her past, Merilee is surprisingly trusting as her friendship with Heather deepens. Although the beginning of her relationship with Sugar is a little rocky due to her landlady’s propensity to speak her mind, they quickly find common ground as Sugar opens up to Merilee about her long ago past.
Sugar has had more than her share of heartache over her lifetime so she tries to protect herself from getting close to anyone. She has never had any trouble keeping her distance from her previous tenants, so she is a little surprised when she finds herself drawn to Merilee and her children. Sugar recognizes herself in Merilee and she is soon confiding long held secrets to her young friend. She is also a little worried about Merilee’s budding friendship with Heather but her warnings fall on deaf ears. While Merilee and Sugar do not see eye to eye on some things, their friendship easily withstands the occasional friction between them. Although Sugar refuses to admit it, Merilee, Lily and Colin have become quite important to her and she worries about them as if they were blood relatives.
There is also a hint of suspense to the storyline in addition to Merliee’s new found friendships. Vague references to Merilee’s past hint that her recent divorce is just one of the losses she has suffered. Her relationship with her parents is quite distant and they do not offer her help or support as she rebuilds her life. Astute readers will easily pick up on what is happening right under Merilee’s nose well before events take a wrong turn and she finds herself in an increasingly precarious situation. It is also somewhat easy to guess the motive for the plan that has been set in motion. This does not lessen the overall enjoyment of the novel but is incredibly frustrating seeing someone who is vulnerable fall victim to another person’s twisted manipulations.
The Night the Lights Went Out is an extremely heartwarming novel with a wonderful small town atmosphere. The storyline is well-developed and quite engaging. The characters are multi-dimensional and very personable despite a few flaws. A very charming story with plenty of Southern flair that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to old and new fans of Karen White.