I used to LOVE Dorothea Benton Frank. Her early works made me long to live on Pawley's or Sullivan's Island, feel the sand beneath my bare feet, and be a Geechee girl. But as with most prolific writers, there has been a decline in the quality of her writing, but I was still able to at least finish the last one I read, though I didn't like it. Wanting to give her one more chance, I got Porch Lights, and had to stop a third of the way in. The premise is fine, and seeing the POVs of mother and daughter are fine, but the characterization and dialogue were just bad. I didn't like Jackie's constant whining and moaning about how she had lost everything that meant anything to her, that she had nothing etc. Her self pity was a little, or very, hard to take when, though I understand she was mourning her husband, she had her health, a beautiful child, family and friends who loved and supported her, a home, career options, etc. She had alot more than nothing. I noticed how she begrudged her mother her cornbread pan, comparing that to how the Afghan women had to cook over a campfire, but at no time did she think of herself as alot more damned fortunate than the Afghan women. I didn't like the grandmother's idiotic flirtations with the man next door, the "competition" with her friend over him like he was an object, and her asking her daughter to look in his laundry hamper to see what kind of underwear he wore was just gross, on several levels. I didn't get the lunch ordering scene either, when the ten year old grandson chooses and orders for her because he is the "man" at the table? Being the "man" means treating women as though they can't speak for themselves? Not in my book.
Why couldn't she have the characters talk to each other like real people, instead of being like cartoons? Additionally, the gross overuse of exclamation points adds to the cartoonish feel, and makes the book read like an eleven year old girl's diary. Thoughtful conversations and interactions, and sensitive and nuanced illustrations of place...AREN'T in this book. It is very sad.