Title: Sullivan's Island
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Series: Lowcountry Tales
Genre: Women's Fiction
Year Published: 2004
Rating (1-10): 9
Frank's debut novel is a story of redemption set in South Carolina's steamy low country. Susan Hamilton Hayes's comfortable Charleston existence is shattered when she finds her husband in bed with another woman. Faced with a failed marriage, a confused teenage daughter and a mediocre job, she sets about the business of healing. Slowly, supported by visits to her sister in their childhood home on sleepy Sullivan's Island, Susan becomes a successful newspaper columnist, regains her confidence as a woman (despite a hilariously deflating date) and finally explores the death of her complex, abusive father decades before.
Chapters alternate between the present and 1963, the year her father died, as Susan faces both the strength and the damaging effects of her family legacy. The ending - complete with a perfect suitor reemerging from Susan's youth - is almost too picture perfect to ring true, but both the setting and the characters are blazingly authentic. Frank evokes the eccentric Hamilton family and their feisty Gullah housekeeper with originality and conviction; Susan herself - smart, sarcastic, funny and endearingly flawed - makes a lively and memorable narrator. Thanks to these scrappily compelling portraits, this is a rich read.
One of my favorite settings is the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Family drama told with humor and depth of characters make this a very good read. And I fell in love with the Hamilton's Gullah housekeeper, Livvie. This was my first book by Ms. Frank and I hope to read more.