Lighthouse Cove
by Kimberly Cates, contemporary (2002)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-1887-5

Kimberly Cates' latest book Lighthouse Cove suffers from a multitude of horrendous flaws that I really don't know where to start. I'd suggest stocking up on the Accu-Chek and Zantec. This book crams all the horrifically overdone Hallmark Kleenex Moments clichés and overboil them all to the point that Lighthouse Cove is as flat as stale turnips and as horrific as being trapped in the middle of a Carebear orgy.

The prose is also long-winded and overblown in a Pollyanna Trippy La-la way that it takes me awhile to figure out why the heroine seems to be permanently depressed. The heroine is Jacqueline "Jack" Murphy. (Incidentally, what's with all these heroines calling themselves 'Jack', 'Alex', 'Max', 'Michael', et cetera? What happened to Alice, Cindy, Monica, and yes, Jacqueline?) Her colleague Ziggy Bartolli, her surrogate Dad, died and predictably, she is permanently guilt-ridden. Because she is a female hotshot photographer and people disapprove of her and Ziggy working together, and because we are still caught in a "Good Old Days" timewarp where the woman's place is in the kitchen and all. (Why then isn't Ms Cates cooking and cleaning for her husband and kids instead of torturing me with stories like this one?) Then I learn that she still hasn't gotten over That Love Affair Ten Year Ago that ended when he left to marry another woman and Jack here lost their baby and ugh, ugh, ugh.

That man, Tom Brownlow, is not happy either. His wife doesn't like kids and she'd rather play with happy people, so off she goes and good riddance, slut. Meanwhile his precious daughter Lucy is going blind, and he's all guilt-ridden about failing her and her and you and me and everybody - FAIL! - and he ends up living at the same place Jack is taking refuge from the outside world: a lovely place of lighthouses and beaches where evil lives.

Evil like that horribly saccharine old woman who just wants to see everybody - like Jack and Tom - happy and married and having a big family. Like Lucy. This is a place where nobody speaks like normal people do in real life. Problems are "storms", every sentence is a wise, Southern ya-ya nugget of wisdom filled with Deep Forking Kleenex Metaphors. Take for example, Sainted Lucy's speech. That crazy girl can't say one single sentence without turning it into an overblown Chicken Soul hour:

"I promise I won't touch anything. See, I drop things sometimes, or knock them over. I didn't mean to, it's just, sometimes it's hard to see - you know, in gray times, when it's just getting dark..."

The three periods, people, are signs that Ms Cates want you all to think about her Deep Words of Wisdom and nod just like Lucy's father is doing. Oh, special, special children! Blind children! Mentally handicapped children! Special children showing us the True Way of Live! Artistic, sensitive special children telling us in halting preciousness unexpectedly profound way to sell more greeting cards!

Despite the hysterical pitch of the unthinking overly sentimental profundities flooding this story, Tom and Jack are so determined to remain depressed and self-absorbed that reading the book feels like an overlong bashing in my head with a giant drill. Seriously, Tom and Jack whine and moan and grumble all the time. They don't seem to have lives or jobs, only the luxury of psychoanalyzing each other to death. This book is transparently and shamelessly manipulative - the author doesn't even try to pretend otherwise.

Readers who can abandon themselves to stories of pure schmaltz and blatantly saccharine moments will surely lap this one the way they lapped Geralyn Dawson's The Pink Tampon Commercial. Me, I have to care for my blood sugar. But I also try not to watch insurance or tampon commercials or the Hallmark channel on TV, I don't collect Kinkade paintings, and I laugh evilly at, not weep over, those "tragic true stories of loss and courage" in Reader's Digest, so I sure am the wrong audience for Lighthouse Cove. Die-hard Hallmark Channel fans, this one's for you.

Rating: 42

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