I have always enjoyed novels by Dorothea Benton Frank, whose book settings are always somewhere in the Low Country of South Carolina. Her characters are always strong, if somewhat quirky, women, and the island settings always become at least a character of sorts. I always leave the story wishing I lived on an island off the coast of South Carolina, where I could just pop over the bridge and be in Savannah or Charleston.
However, The Hurricane Sisters fell significantly short of being a novel worth reading. Its only redeeming characteristic was that the settings were Charleston and the family home on Sullivans Island. Frank’s description of life on Sullivans Island made me want to pack up and move there. I could almost hear the ocean waves.
The storyline takes on the difficult subject of domestic violence. I would have preferred that the author write a nonfiction account of a serious problem that is apparently becoming more and more common in South Carolina. Addressing the subject in a weak fictional story almost seemed silly.
Frank presents three generations of Pringle women – Maisie, the matriarch; Liz, her daughter; and Ashley, Liz’s daughter whose desire is to make a career out of her talent for painting. Maisie is the strong-willed character always present in Frank’s novels, and really the only character who rang true at all. Liz is caught in a marriage that has lost its zing, and she compensates by putting all her efforts and emotions into her job at a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic violence, while at the same time ignoring her husband’s philandering. Ashley lives in the family home on Sullivans Island, and couldn’t possibly be a sillier character. Though apparently a smart and gifted artist, she spends the entire book mooning after a handsome state senator who is headed for greater things (the White House) despite the fact that he is clearly a perpetrator of domestic abuse.
It is simply laughable that Liz, who is so committed to fighting domestic violence simply dismisses Ashley’s roommate Mary Ellen’s attempt to convince her that the senator is abusive. Simply wouldn’t happen.
So many of Frank’s earlier novels are so much better. If you are interested in reading books with beautiful settings and interesting characters, pick one of her earlier novels such as Sullivan’s Island or Plantation.
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