Book review: ‘The Truth about Love and Lightning’ by Susan McBride

The Truth about LoveFamily, magic and love combine in one entertaining read from Susan McBride. The small-town setting, ripe with intrigue, was enough to keep me flipping the pages — but the novel’s focus on sisters, lost love and motherhood really kept me coming back for more.

“A lie that Gretchen Brink told 40 years ago comes back to haunt her when a tornado brings together Sam, a mysterious man who can’t remember anything, and Abby, her newly pregnant daughter who is convinced Sam is her long-lost father. Though decades old, when Gretchen’s secrets are revealed, the ramifications will affect them all in ways they never could have imagined.

A mesmerizing study of family and love, The Truth About Love and Lightning is touching and observant, reminding us that we never know when our lives are on the precipice of change.” (Goodreads)

With a special focus on Native American lore, family dynamics and mystery, McBride’s The Truth About Love and Lightning finds us wading through the waters of the past with a few principle characters: Gretchen, a single mother who has never gotten over the shock of losing her best friend, Sam; Abigail, Gretchen’s grown daughter, who grows up believing Sam is her dad; and Sam himself, the youngest of a Native American family of farmers with a long history in Walnut Ridge, Missouri.

All in all, I tore through this book in the weeks leading up to Christmas — a notoriously busy time in which I often had to set the book aside for other tasks. Something kept bringing me back to McBride’s plot, though — a sense of intrigue that found me desperate to answer a few key questions: could this mysterious man blown in by a tornado actually be Sam Winston? Where had he been all this time? Is he actually Abby’s father?

Though the build-up to those resolutions felt a little bigger than the resolutions themselves, I really enjoyed this story — and wished we could have gotten to better know Gretchen’s two blind sisters, Trudy and Bennie. I loved the sisters’ preternatural abilities to see or hear things others couldn’t, giving them an otherworldly quality, and wished we could have seen their interior lives.

Flipping between the past and present, The Truth About Love and Lightning does a fine job of blending folklore with the lessons of the present. As much as the story centers on Sam and Gretchen, especially in their youth, it’s also the tale of the Winston family — and the land on which they’ve made a home for decades. It was fascinating how the farm comes to be in Gretchen’s possession, and I could definitely perfectly picture the setting — a testament to McBride’s storytelling.

Though the story left me with more questions than answers, I really enjoyed it. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen’s brand of magical realism, stories of first love, novels centered on folklore and those looking for a quick, entertaining read with a healthy dash of mystery will find plenty to enjoy in The Truth About Love and Lightning.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 006202728X • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘The Cougar Club’ by Susan McBride

Look what the wind blew in.

After decades apart, high school best friends Kat, Elise and Carla are reunited in their hometown of St. Louis after Kat loses her position at a New York City-based advertising agency. All in their mid-forties, the three ladies who comprise their unofficial “Cougar Club” share their trials and triumphs over a glass (or two) of champagne — and teach each other, and the reader, that age really is just a number.

Recently displaced and furious after discovering her much-younger boyfriend’s infidelity, Kat is temporarily shacking up with her parents and avoiding her holier-than-thou sister. Carla, a local TV celebrity, is worried her professional career is in jeopardy when a pert young blonde starts sniffing around newsdesk, all at the request of her producer ex-husband. And Elise? While she’s succeeded at building her dermatology practice, she feels like she’s “failed” in one major area of her life: marriage. Her high school sweetheart Michael has new, extended hours seem to keep him anywhere but home — and far from her.

In Susan McBride’s fast-paced The Cougar Club, we alternate seeing the world from each woman’s perspective which, when done well, works great for me. I’m happy to report McBride made Elise, Kat and Carla individual women and successfully blended their unique, sometimes snarky “voices” with that of the omnipresent, all-knowing narrator. It was easy to flit back and forth between each friend as she struggled with the myriad of issues doing a number on her energy and self-confidence, though I liked Kat’s sections best.

Where does all the talk of “cougars” come in, you might ask? Both Kat and Carla have their respective “boy toys,” which isn’t really a fair term for them. Kat was in a committed relationship with a man almost twenty years her junior and, though it didn’t work out, it was a real relationship — despite the chiding of her family. Carla’s trysts, on the otherhand, come off the most “cougarish” of them all . . . and I can’t say I was entirely comfortable with that! But they didn’t offend me on a deep level. It was just . . . meh, a tad awkward.

But that’s one of those double standards we love to toss around and question, wondering how it’s okay — and even expected — that an older man would lust after the saucy young secretary in the office, but women? Ladies are expected to age gracefully and bow to the younger crowd, ready and eager to come in and stomp their stilletos all over the older broads.

And the women of The Cougar Club are here to say no.

Despite my misgivings about Carla, who came across as rather cold-hearted at points, I had to give her credit for standing up for herself and refusing to become a doormat. Elise, too, for eventually confronting a painful and awkward situation — and dear Kat, my favorite of the ladies, who eventually figured out what she wanted and wouldn’t let anyone come in and railroad her.

The novel was less about “cougars,” a term which makes some cringe, and more about friendships — developing them, keeping them, learning from them. At the heart of this book are three women who care for each other and try to protect each other as they all search for that big, elusive love. Even if, you know, he’s young enough to be her son. (Or at least a much younger nephew.) A quick read sure to please lovers of women’s fiction with some genuinely hilarious and poignant moments!

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061771260 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

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Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours