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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Night the Lights Went Out

The Night the Lights Went Out

ISBN: 9780451488381

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: 4/11/2017

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars + Top Books of 2017 **Blog Tour April 11** From the New York Times bestselling author of Flight Patterns comes a stunning new novel about a young single mother who discovers that the nature of friendship is never what it seems.... 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...


My Review

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* Join Me. Blog Tour Host April 11 * THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT It’s the first novel Karen has set in her hometown of Atlanta. We are celebrating every day for two whole weeks!

Destined for the Big Screen (see cast selection below) The queen of the south, Karen White returns following Flight Patterns on my Top 50 Books of 2016 with the highly anticipated THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT. As sweet as a Georgia peach, and as scandalous as Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, and Big Little Lies. Set aside the time, readers . . . you are going to love Sugar! The Southern Queen B has created her best yet! Yay Atlanta . . . From the stunning WOW cover and the memorable characters, Karen White grabs you and pulls you into this Southern suburban neighborhood filled with drama, revenge, secrets and lies, while exploring the true meaning of friendship. It is not always as it appears.

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Observations of Suburban Life from Sweet Apple, Georgia

Written by: Your Neighbor

Alternating between the 1930s Depression-era Georgia and a modern-day 2016 Sweet Apple, Georgia (fictional) suburb of north Atlanta. Let the games begin.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Meet the 3 leading ladies: • Merilee Talbot Dunlap, newly divorcée, single mom, mysterious past • Alice Prescott Bates, Matriarch aka Sugar Prescott, landlady • Heather Blackford, Socialite, beautiful, perfectionist

An anonymous blogger offers up entertaining essential Southernisms any Yankee in the South should know, sprinkled throughout. “It’s never about the secret itself, but the keeping of it.” From the wealthy private school, social climbing moms to a young single divorced mom who discovers (the hard way) . . . the true meaning of friendship and the dangers of deception.

Against the modern-day scandals, we meet matriarch Sugar Prescott who is at the center of the novel. A grounding force. A courageous woman you want on your side. Sugar is wise, and has had her own share of tragedy and can relate to her new tenant, on more than one level. Merilee Talbot Dunlap had learned in eleven years of marriage, it was the simple fact that you could live with a person for a long time and never really know him. One day the mask slips. Her husband, Michael has an affair with their daughter’s third-grade math teacher, Tammy. Merilee decides she does not want to stay in the house with all the reminders. She was traded in for a younger woman. She needs to escape from all the gossip. However, she is unaware, it may be the lesser of two evils. What lies ahead at the new location, may be even more devastating. Merilee is the mother of ten-year-old old daughter Lily and eight-year-old Colin. They were now moving into a quaint furnished Craftsman historic cottage (with a cellar) for tornados, located behind Mrs. Prescott’s farmhouse in Sweet Apple, GA. The landlord is a southern matriarch and well-respected in the community. Some say she is harsh. She is known as Sugar. She is widowed (Tom was killed in the war) and no children. A mystery to some. Fascinating and eccentric to others. Sugar Prescott (Alice Prescott Bates) is ninety-four years old (what a great character)! She lives alone in an old farmhouse on her family’s land. Her loyal best friend Willa Faye Mackenzie. Willa Faye moved to a senior living facility. While Sugar was staying put as long, as possible. A realtor had found the young mother and her two children as her new tenants. Not that she had any desire to befriend her new tenants and neighbor, but Sugar had the feeling that Merilee was suddenly on her own and in need of help. Sugar was in a position, to understand that need more than most. She suspected but would deny if anyone asked, that she was getting soft in her old age. Of course, Sugar did not realize this single mother would be this young and pretty. Mid-thirties. She wonders what happened to her marriage? Surely the woman had flaws. Sugar soon discovers a few. Heaven forbid, the woman does not even know how to cook, nor does she know her proper Southern graces! Sugar must teach her a thing, or two.

. . . “At least by the end of the day, you’ll know how to bake cookies and fry okra. Because it might be against the law for a Southern-born girl not to know how. Along with changing a tire.” . . .

Despite all her attempts to keep her new tenant at arm’s length, a tenuous connection had been formed. They may have more in common that they may suspect. Merilee at first thinks Sugar is a little strange and is judging her. However, soon their bond strengthens. The best award-winning part . . Think: To Kill a Mockingbird This is where White always "shines" with the historical past and dual timelines. (big screen hit here) Fans of TV series Underground, will enjoy. Sugar begins telling Merilee bits and pieces of her life on the farm as a girl during the Depression, starting from 1934. Flashing back and forth in time. Bit by bit. Normally she is closed-mouthed about her past (in a world of oversharing), she likes keeping some things to herself. However, somehow, she feels comfortable opening up to this younger version of herself. Sugar’s dark life during the Depression in Sweet Apple provides a very different look at life compared to the present-day of the same town, especially those in Heather’s world. A nice edition to the story: Wade Kimball is Willa Faye’s grandson, and he looks in on Sugar. The developer, and handyman. He helps with any of the maintenance issues for Sugar and her new tenant. We also get to hear more from him. Enjoy how he shows up at just the right time to turn some heads. Also easy on the eyes . . . As Merilee and her children begin to get settled in, she meets a variety of moms. One, in particular, Heather, which is like “perfection.” The perfect wife, mother, house, children, food, social standing, glamorous, clothes, and home (s) with the good-looking nice husband, Daniel. Merilee feels inferior next to her. As the kids become involved in their new school and Merilee in carpools and committees. She just wants to be accepted, like a kid at school. Peer pressure is tough. Soon her daughter comes home and tells her about this anonymous blogger. It is called: THE PLAYING FIELDS BLOG. Observations of Suburban Life from Sweet Apple, Georgia Written by Your neighbor. Who is this person and how does she know so much about their Sweet Apple lives? The blogger dishes out a variety of gossip and offers a few Southernism tidbits for all the newbies at the end of each installment. No one knows but they think it could be a mom at Windwood since she seems to know a lot about what goes on at school, the community, and their lives. (yes it is spicy, sassy, and oh so funny)! In the meantime, the perfectionist mother Heather at school is befriending her. Merilee gets pulled in by the attention and her affluent lifestyle. She has taken her under her wing. Merilee grabs on, desperate for new friends and acceptance. Looks can be deceiving. Of course, Sugar does not trust her. A backstory here. Merilee also has a mysterious past; however, she is not so forthcoming, until it all unravels later. Between Sugar’s stories from the past, Merilee’s own drama with her wealthy friends in the present; the school, her children, her ex-husband, his girlfriend, and a baby on the way, worrying about measuring up to her new friend Heather, and the constant reminders of her life from an unknown blogger and social media; she feels like she is on a reality TV show. . . . and there are some other strange happenings. Daniel and Heather are acting weird. Plus, Merilee has her own memories and guilt from the past which may be coming back to haunt her. Then someone is murdered at the lake house (Lake Lanier). The suspicions are pointing to Merilee. Is someone setting her up? How will she prove she is innocent based on her past? What motive do they have for hurting her?

“Don’t go digging where you’re not wanted. Most people have secrets. And most of them should be allowed to stay hidden. No good has ever come from poking a stick down a hole. Sometimes you get a garter snake, but sometimes you get a rattler.”

From murder, attempted murder, revenge, and a tornado. It wouldn’t be the South without a little drama and deceit sprinkled with some sugar. Female friendships are at the heart of this page-turner. Move this one to the TOP of your list. You are going to love it! (cover obsession) Karen White just keeps getting better and better. From southern "grit lit", a murder mystery, historical, women's fiction, domestic suspense, family drama, motherhood, social media, bullying, friendship, romance, humor, contemporary, to psychological and suspense! THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT has it all! Grab a hammock, a swing, head to the beach, or a front porch rocking chair. Mark out the time and sit back and be prepared to be entertained Southern savvy style!

A special thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an early reading copy. Also purchased the audiobook for an outstanding performance.

Review Links Goodreads

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ * * * OK, it is Movie Cast Picks * * * WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT would be a perfect fit for the big screen! A must have. (hello, look at the cover), it oozes class and Hollywood (Southern) with the dual timelines. These ladies deserve a shot from book to movie . . . in action, along with the actresses I (we) think would be the perfect fit to portray them. After reading, White fans, and those of TV series #BigLittleLies will be DYING to see the cast once again here: (I know I am) . . . My Cast Choice: Off the top of my head. *Top choice: Reese Witherspoon (A younger Sugar); however, want a different husband than BLL for (Tom). A few picks: Ryan Gosling, Josh Lucas, or Matthew McConaughey. A southern gentleman. Will need to ponder further about sweet (Jimmy), the mean brothers, (Rufus), mom, dad, and the remainder of the family. Just hitting the main cast at this time. *Shailene Woodley (Marilee) absolutely perfect for the role and quite mysterious (love). Have to think about (Wade)'s character (someone sexy, of course), and ex-husband possibly (James Tupper). I would also recommend the kids from BLL, especially: Iain Armitage and Darby Camp. This would make a good brother-sister duo. * The power socialite couple: (a given) Nichole Kidman (Heather). Yes, then we could see her with BLL hubby Alexander Skarsgård (Daniel) again where he could play a nicer role and could redeem himself a bit. So this could work (but not sure he can pull off authentic Southern) but a little role reversal revenge for BLL fans. 😊 * (For older Sugar) Kathleen Doyle Bates, my first choice, or Judith Light. Have a few others in mind. Somewhere we have to fit in (Kate Winslet). Does anyone want to weigh in? Would love to hear your selections.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Gather your book clubs, this is the #1 selection for the year, readers! For added incentive, check out Karen White’s Book Club Kit (hilarious). Can you just imagine all the books clubs in suburbia? Would love to be a secret blogger getting the scoop.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ Blog Installment entry: Southernisms: Cannot close my Blog Tour Stop without one of my favorite book quotes: . . . “Now I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Bible, but I’d wager that most of you know the story about stoning the sinner and how only the person without sin was supposed to cast the first stone. There’s been a lot of talk about certain people having secrets from their past, and how secrets are a lot like chickens: they always come back home to roost. Show me one neighbor who doesn’t have a secret and I’ll show you a liar. Remember that when you pick up a stone with the intent to throw it. Which brings me to today’s Southern saying: 'You’re driving your chickens to the wrong market.' That’s what I’d like to say to all those people in the coffee shop trading rumors like they were at the New York Stock Exchange. And if you need me to define that one for you, then I’d just say that you won’t hurt your back totin’ your brains. Bless your heart.” . . . — The Playing Field Blog: Observations of Suburban Life from Sweet Apple, GA Installment #9


Lauren Willig, NYT Bestselling author of The Other Daughter "hit the nail on the head" with her description: "If Big Little Lies met To Kill A Mockingbird and had a compulsively readable love child, that book would be The Night the Lights Went Out . . . " I concur. I enjoyed the inspiration behind the book and Author Q&A of what's coming next. Atlanta Magazine Karen White is one of my favorite southern writers. As a Southerner, myself, (NC/SC, GA, FL), she makes us proud. BTW, now I know where she gets her beauty . . . from Mississippi, of course. On a personal note: As a former Membership Director for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce (Alpharetta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Mountain Park-N. GA), back in the early nineties and actively involved in the Economic Development at the beginning of the GA 400 corridor boom- all prior 2006 Milton incorporation. Wow, has this area changed.

This book offered a nostalgic trip down memory lane for one of the most exciting times in my personal and professional career. Brings back my Atlanta heyday in the media/publishing commercial real estate world from print to era and the bust 1994-2006.

Even though I reside in Florida full time, Atlanta will always be home; my heart is still there. After all my loyal 15 yr-old golden retriever Duke is buried there, overlooking Lake Lanier in Dahlonega. Plus, many fond memories of my log cabin in Big Canoe in the lovely mountains of North Georgia. Beauty country.

If you have been to the N. GA Crabapple area, (Sweet Apple, fictional town) based on Milton, GA (KW’s town) it is indeed rich in history and a beautiful equestrian town with loads of character and glad to see all new master plans for the area. I barely recognized it last time I was there. Reminds me a bit of our Wellington, Palm Beach County (author, Tami Hoag's stomping ground).

So glad Karen chose her town for the inspiration, for her fictional Sweet Apple, and hope we hear more from the area.

Keep the Georgia stories coming! This author is on fire..


Book Giveaway Contest

In Celebration of The Nights the Lights Went Out, Enter a Book Giveaway Contest for a chance to win a paperback copy of Flight Patterns (coming 3.28.17) Enter Here April 4-11, 2017 (closed)

Congrats to winner: Amy Sullivan Prescott Valley, AZ

Thanks to everyone for all the entries and participation!

Praise for Flight Patterns

FLIGHT PATTERNS tells the story of Georgia Chambers, a fine china expert who left her family years before and is forced to return home and repair the relationships she’s carefully avoided. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep.

Reprint Paperback

Coming March 28, 2017 BUY NOW


About the Author

Karen White

After playing hooky one day in the seventh grade to read Gone With the Wind, Karen White knew she wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O'Hara. In spite of these aspirations, Karen pursued a degree in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, after leaving the business world, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer and wrote her first book. In the Shadow of the Moon was published in August, 2000. Her books have since been nominated for numerous national contests including the SIBA (Southeastern Booksellers Alliance) Fiction Book of the Year, and has twice won the National Readers’ Choice Award.

Karen is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and currently writes what she refers to as ‘grit lit’—Southern women’s fiction—and has also expanded her horizons into writing a mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Her twentieth novel, Flight Patterns, was published in May 2016 by Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House Publishing Group.

Karen hails from a long line of Southerners but spent most of her growing up years in London, England and is a graduate of the American School in London. When not writing, she spends her time reading, scrapbooking, playing piano, and avoiding cooking. She currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children, and two spoiled Havanese dogs.

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