Published by William Morrow Paperbacks ISBN 9780062132543
Trade paperback, $14.99, 352 pages
You can always count on Dorothea Benton Frank to deliver a terrific summer read to hunker down with on the beach. New in paperback is The Hurricane Sisters, which once again features a gorgeous cover. (Her 2015 summer book All The Single Ladies publishes on June 9th.)
We meet eighty-year-old Maisie Pringle, celebrating her birthday with her driver-turned-boyfriend Skipper, who is a much younger (65!) man. He and Maisie are very happy together, much to the chagrin of Maisie's daughter Liz, who at first glance is kind of a stick-in-the-mud.
Liz's twenty-something daughter Ashley lives in the family's somewhat rundown beach house on an island off of Charleston, South Carolina. Ashley works in an art gallery for ten dollars an hour and aspires to be an artist and visit Rome, Paris and New York. Her college friend Mary Beth can't find a teaching job, so she works for a caterer and lives with Ashley.
Liz is married to Clayton, who works in finance and spends most of his week in New York City. They also have a son, Clayton, called Ivy because he is Clayton IV in the family. Ivy lives in San Francisco with his business and life partner James, and though his parents had a difficult time with the fact that he is gay (they sent him to a conversion camp when he was a teen), they all seem to have made their way back to each other.
Ashley has a crush on a state senator, Porter, who is a bit John Edwards/John Kennedy-ish. She dreams of being his Jackie Kennedy, and when she meets him at an event and they start dating, it seems that her dreams may come true.
But Porter proves to be very controlling. He tells Ashley how to speak, how to act, and is generally very critical of her. Mary Beth and Maisie warn Ashley about Porter, but Ashley makes excuses for his behavior. When one of Porter's ex-girlfriend's tries to warn Ashley, she chalks it up to jealousy until the situation worsens.
Frank tackles the issue of domestic violence here, in a manner that may surprise people. South Carolina has the highest rate of women murdered by their husband/boyfriend, and Frank shows us how insidious domestic violence can be.
It doesn't just happen to women who are trapped, have children to support and nowhere to turn. It can happen to an intelligent, educated woman from a good family who should know better because her mother works for a domestic violence program. Frank definitely gives the reader something to think deeply about, and even offers the reader a way to help at the end of the book.
Of course, she still has her fabulous sense of Southern humor. I cackle at her one-liners, like this one from Liz, who says "Let me tell you, my friend, the gene pool is a mighty big place and like they say, there's literally no lifeguard."
Frank also again has an interesting take on marriage, and how difficult it can be and how much care you must take to stay connected, like she did in her last book, The Last Original Wife. And again, I got lots of great restaurant suggestions for my Charleston Pinterest board.
There is so much in this fantastic book, told from the alternating perspectives of Maisie, Liz, Ashley and Clayton, that I would love to read a prequel, telling us more about Maisie, Liz and Liz's sister Juliet who died young. I feel there is an amazing story there as well.
The only problem with my Dorothea Benton Frank novels is that they all have sunscreen on the pages from turning them so quickly.
rating 4 of 5
My review of The Last Original Wife is here.
Dorothea Benton Frank's website is here.