Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review: The Truth About Love and Lightning

By Melissa Amster

I think everyone lies at one time or another. If someone says they never lie, I think that would even be considered lying. Sometimes people do it to stay out of trouble; other times to protect someone's feelings. Whatever the lie is, no matter how big or little, it's still a lie. It's why Billy Joel sings about "honesty" being such a lonely word. ("Everyone is so untrue.") Is anyone ever really prepared to handle the truth, no matter what it is?

Gretchen Brink told a lie many years ago. A lie that has affected herself and her daughter, as well as some other people in her small Missouri town. On the day of a big storm, two very important people show up at her door. The first is a man with no memory, who seems familiar enough to be Sam, a dear friend of hers who was presumed dead many years ago. The other visitor is her daughter Abby, newly pregnant, and running away from her commitment-wary boyfriend. The lie Gretchen told is about to catch up with her, since Abby thinks Sam is her father and if the mystery man really is Sam, the truth could come out and hurt them all.

Like her previous novel, Little Black Dress, The Truth About Love and Lightning also has elements of magic, mystery, romance, and glimpses into the past. Susan McBride intertwines these elements flawlessly, with her gentle storytelling touch. The fact that she was newly pregnant when she started writing it adds to the emotional content. Her use of description made me feel like I was right next to the characters in each of the settings. Each of the characters was interesting in their own way. I felt I could identify with Gretchen, even though she was a lot older than me. I also felt a kinship with Abby. And learning about who Sam was in the past made me love him even more. My favorite part of the book was the historical flashback, when we get a glimpse into Sam's ancestry. It was so interesting and beautifully written, keeping me guessing as I turned each page.

As much as I love Susan McBride and her novels, I do feel it is only fair to point out what didn't work as well for me, as I think it will be food for thought when she writes her next novel. Given the theme of the story, I feel I should tell the truth, especially since I promised an honest review. First of all, some of the dialogue seemed forced or scripted, like people were reading lines from a play. I especially saw this in scenes involving Gretchen's sisters. I don't know about you, but I never call my sister, "Sister." I use her name. This dialogue issue didn't hinder the novel, but it was noticeable. Also, I was expecting the story to go on a little longer and explain some more questions that ended up going unanswered. When we get a glimpse into the story between Gretchen and Sam, we get mostly Sam's perspective and not much of Gretchen's. Since Gretchen is the main character in the story, it would have been nice to hear her side, as well. There are times when Gretchen, as an adult, alludes to her story, but seeing what actually happened through her eyes would have been helpful. That's not to say it's a bad ending because it was satisfying, overall.

The Truth About Love and Lightning is a sweet story that is appealing for readers with various tastes. It has elements of chick lit, but there are other genres, as well. I am a fan of Billie Letts' novels (i.e. Where the Heart is and Shoot the Moon) and she hasn't written anything in a while. This story comes close to something Billie Letts would write and also enjoy reading! It's a definite page turner and is not too long that you couldn't finish it in a few days.

Thanks to Susan for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. She's visiting CLC today and has some books to share!

More by Susan McBride:

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