Review: The Night the Lights Went Out

April 13, 2017 Berkley, book review, family, fiction, Karen White, southern lit 1

  • Written by:  Karen White
  • Published by: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, April 11, 2017
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Source:  E galley via Netgalley with permission from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


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….(publisher)

My Thoughts:

Merilee Dunlap is shattered when she learns her husband has been having an affair with a teacher at her children’s school.  When she divorces this lying cheat who she still really loves, she downsizes her home, her car and moves her kids to a private school.  Sweet Apple GA is like many small towns that have been swept up in urban sprawl and is now an upper middle class suburb of Atlanta, filled with McMansions and upscale SUVs.  Merilee is happy in here small cabin, even if her landlord is a 90ish, rather curmudgeonly woman like Sugar.  Sugar has lived on this land her entire life, land that was once her family’s farm, sold and parceled out by her money grubbing brothers.  She’s determined to hold on to the rest.  No matter how determined she is to not make friends with Merilee and her children, she just can’t stay away.  She finds herself baking and sharing, and popping in for visits.  Reminded of her own younger brother when she see’s Merilee’s young son.

It is in the stories of her youth that we learn about Sugar’s past, and how she got to be where she is now.  The past is easier to share than the details of much smaller life now. Listening to these tales, Merilee is also able to open up about her youth and the tragedies she’s spent her adult live trying to repent from, a series of accidents and guilt she can’t forget.

Merilee feels she doesn’t fit in with the stay at home moms of the new school, and still she is swept up in a  friendship with the queen bee of all the moms, Heather.  Flattered and somehow taken in by Heather I didn’t see this friendship as growing, but it did.  Merilee would be much happier if only this anonymous blog weren’t digging into her life, sharing all the ugly details of her husband’s affair, and little faux pas that embarrass her.

These three women are the bulk of this book, and yes they all have a past, and somehow you can never leave your demons behind you.  There is also a hunky handyman, some good looking husbands, and the talk of food and sweet tea just round out a good southern book!

Karen White continues to dazzle me with her gift for telling a story, making me think of my own misspent youth, and wishing I had the friendship of a truly remarkable woman like Sugar in my life.  The Night the Lights Went Out was a super quick read, so enjoyable and yet just enough mystery to keep me guessing.  I can’t wait to see Karen on book tour next week in Vero Beach Book Center.

Thank you again to Lauren Bernstein at Berkley for reaching out to me to read and share this book.

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