The Night The Lights Went Out. Karen White. Penguin Publishing Group. April 2017. 416 pp. ISBN #: 9780451488381.
Merilee Talbot Dunlap and her two children are moving to Sweet Apple, Georgia not far from Atlanta. Merilee is recently divorced and not sure where she wants to settle. So, she rents a small house behind the home of her landlady, Sugar. It’s a time of adjustment for all. Sugar appears to be a tough elderly lady but as the story progresses we find that she has a heart of gold, submerged beneath sarcastic retorts and much grumbling. For one thing, she’s rough on Merilee’s lack of Southern cooking skills, including how to make real “sweet tea” and make vegetables palatable for children. Merilee has done fine with her son and daughter and they like Sugar who makes amazing cookies and has a collection of bird books that are an instant hit.
Now comes the interesting part as soon after Merilee and her children settle into a job and school, respectively, it seems there’s an Internet blogger who knows all about Merilee’s divorce. That’s a very different blogger from the other blog that points out the humorous side of “Southern” living, and funny it is!
Other characters include a handyman friend of Sugar who volunteers to do all kinds of renovations and house fixing for Merilee and more if she’s willing. Then there’s Heather, a socialite who controls the charity benefits and school events and artfully takes over every mother’s life, including Merilee. There’s also Heather’s husband who seems like a regular guy living a very unhappy existence.
No, this isn’t just a snarky Southern satire, although it certainly seems so! The story progresses as Sugar and Merilee get closer and share the tragedies of their lives. Just as the bond grows into a beautiful friendship, chaos looms large! The very end of the novel jumps into a murder, an attempted murder and a mystery revealed that one could never have imagined when first starting this story!
Karen White continues to defy attempts to stereotype her writing. That’s the beauty of her skills. Something to appeal to mystery, romance, comedy, and adventure fill each of her novels, something to draw old and new readers alike for a pleasurable experience.