Bottom Line: An utterly forgettable stereotypical chick lit-type novel with little plot cohesion and even less character development; that being said, it will definitely appeal to those readers who like that sort of thing. Apparently, it was a bit too fluffy for my taste.
“As far as Gretchen Brink is concerned, the tornado that just ripped through her land has nothing on the storms of a different sort happening all around her. Her grown daughter, Abby, has returned home with news that she’s pregnant, and no, she’s not sure whether she’s going to marry the father. A man with no memory has been dropped practically on her doorstep. And the not-so-little white lie she’s been telling for years is about to catch up with her.Abby is sure that the mysterious man is her long-lost father, Sam, who has finally returned just when she needs him most. As Abby, Gretchen, and the Man Who Might Be Sam get closer, the lie Gretchen told all those years ago begins to haunt her. When her secrets come out, and Sam’s past is finally revealed, will it tear down this fragile life they’ve built—or will the truth bring them all closer together?”
Thoughts: If one is looking for a fluffy love story that does not take a lot of time to finish and ends with a predictable happily ever after, Susan McBride’s latest novel, The Truth about Love and Lightning, is the perfect novel for that set of criteria. Revolving around Gretchen and Abby Brink and a man who mysteriously appears after a freak tornado hits the Brink farm, the story flows from the point of view of multiple characters as they each try to discern the truth about the mystery man’s identity. Gretchen faces her crisis of conscience and Abby deals with her own life’s drama, while both try to justify their insistence that the mystery man is truly who they think he is without any discernible proof. Sometimes though, love requires no burden of proof and the truth will out.
The main issue at fault with The Truth about Love and Lightning is the organization of the plot. While Ms. McBride tries to build tension through the slow release of details using flashbacks and different narrators, the flashbacks are disjointed and the different narrators are even worse. The flashbacks do not tie to overarching story until the very end, creating unnecessary confusion each time a reader is taken back in time and then returned to the present day. Three of the narrators makes sense, given that the story is about Gretchen, Abby, and the mystery man, but the inclusion of the very minor Sheriff Tilby and his point of view is questionable at best and just plain confusing. His version of things does nothing to further the plot or create suspense, as this is one novel where a reader can predict the ending before even starting it and as such requires no suspense.
The Truth about Love and Lightning leaves a lot to be desired regarding its characters as well. There is a distinct lack of focus around each of the characters that diminishes the character development as well as understanding their motivations. Even the omission of physical descriptions causes difficulties in remembering the characters’ true ages especially because they all act much younger than they are. Most of the characters receive only superficial treatment and remain indistinct and difficult to understand. Although Abby is almost forty years old, her mannerisms and her speech patterns make her seem like a teenager. If it is troublesome to distinguish Abby as the 39-year-old she is, it is even more difficult to reconcile Gretchen’s true age with her mannerisms and actions. She not only treats her daughter like a teenager, further blurring the lines between appearances and behaviors, she acts much like a teenager herself. In fact, there is not much division between the 2010 Gretchen and the 1970s Gretchen that appear in various flashbacks.
The only character depicted in great detail is Hank Littlefoot. He gets a surprising amount of page time and back story given that he is a fairly minor character in the grand scheme of things. The mystery man is also fairly well-defined but this is due to the fact that Ms. McBride attempts to convince the reader of the man’s true identity in much the same fashion that Gretchen tries to convince others of the same. It is a most unusual novel where the main characters remain nebulous while minor characters are more distinct and therefore more sympathetic.
Susan McBride has made a name for herself for writing women’s literature with quirky characters, enjoyable plots, and a hint of magic to make things unpredictable. While The Truth about Love and Lightning has all of those things, it fails to impress. The bones of the novel are decent, and there is no mistaking the potential for an amazing novel given the basic synopsis. Unfortunately, the execution remains weak, as the characters are relatively insipid and the plot uninspiring in the way it unfolds.
That being said, there is a huge market for books that make no demands on a reader – ones that provide no unexpected surprises and about which a reader knows exactly what to expect. In this, Ms. McBride knows how to cater to her audience, for The Truth about Love and Lightning is such a book. The right reader will love the story purely because it provides a satisfying escape from thought and reality and will ignore the rest, and there is never anything wrong with escaping reality through literature.