Title: The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.
Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.
Luckily for Ashley, her wonderful older brother, Ivy, is her fierce champion but he can only do so much from San Francisco where he resides with his partner. And Mary Beth, her dearest friend, tries to have her back but even she can’t talk headstrong Ashley out of a relationship with an ambitious politician who seems slightly too old for her.
Actually, Ashley and Mary Beth have yet to launch themselves into solvency. Their prospects seem bleak. So while they wait for the world to discover them and deliver them from a ramen-based existence, they placate themselves with a hare-brained scheme to make money but one that threatens to land them in huge trouble with the authorities.
So where is Clayton, Liz’s husband? He seems more distracted than usual. Ashley desperately needs her father’s love and attention but what kind of a parent can he be to Ashley with one foot in Manhattan and the other one planted in indiscretion? And Liz, who’s an expert in the field of troubled domestic life, refuses to acknowledge Ashley’s precarious situation. Who’s in charge of this family? The wake-up call is about to arrive.
The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?
Frank, with her hallmark scintillating wit and crisp insight, captures how a complex family of disparate characters and their close friends can overcome anything through the power of love and reconciliation. This is the often hilarious, sometimes sobering, but always entertaining story of how these unforgettable women became The Hurricane Sisters.
Dorothea Benton Frank’s latest release, The Hurricane Sisters, is a lovely novel set in the South Carolina Lowcountry. This heartwarming story realistically depicts the complicated family relationship between three generations of women as they deal with life’s challenges.
Maisie is a feisty octogenarian who shows no sign of slowing down despite her advanced years. She is headstrong, never hesitates to express her opinion and will never admit when she is wrong. Her support for her granddaughter Ashley is unwavering despite being an ongoing point of contention between Maisie and her daughter Liz. Maisie is no stranger to sorrow and she is still haunted by the untimely death of her daughter Judith. Long widowed, her family is dismayed by her romance with Skipper, the fifteen years younger llama farmer her family hired to drive her around.
Liz is passionate about her career working for a non-profit domestic violence organization. She and her husband, Clayton, have begun to drift apart and she is growing weary of the lack of respect he has for her job. While she has never doubted his fidelity in the past, a few suspicions have begun to creep in lately. Liz is also getting tired of waiting for Ashley to take life more seriously and she is less than pleased when son Ivy (love how he got his nickname!) introduces his business and life partner James. In the midst of all of this turmoil, she and Maisie also butt heads until a couple of crises begin to heal the wounds of the past.
Ashley is a recent college graduate working a low-paying job at an art gallery while she works on her paintings in her spare time. She is a bit of a dreamer and a little immature. She has old-fashioned values and idolizes Jackie Kennedy. When Ashley meets State Senator Porter Galloway, she is immediately smitten and sets about fulfilling her fantasy of becoming a future president’s wife. While some of Porter’s behavior raises a few red flags, she ignores her instincts and stays in the relationship despite her friends’ warnings that Porter is not what he seems. While Ashley is a likable character, in many ways, she seems much younger than her years and her actions put her in a dangerous situation that could have been avoided if she had listened to her intuition and her friends.
Each of the chapters is written in first person and alternate between Liz, Maisie, Ashley and Clayton’s points of view. Each voice is distinct and it is very interesting to see some of the same events from different perspectives. The family is relatively close with its fair share of dysfunction and in the beginning, they are hypercritical of one another. There are the usual parent/child troubles that are fairly universal to most families but Ashley and Ivy’s relationship is blissfully trouble free. The characters’ unresolved issues are revealed through the various interactions and it is quite interesting to watch them work through their individual problems and in doing so, become a little kinder and more understanding of one another.
Set amidst the splendor of Charleston, beautiful sunsets and ocean breezes, The Hurricane Sisters is a relatively light read, but there are serious undertones to the overall storyline. Dorothea Benton Frank raises awareness of the heartbreaking reality of domestic abuse in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner. The family’s relationships are complex and they each are facing realistic and somewhat complicated issues.
A compelling novel with a lively and vibrant cast of characters, The Hurricane Sisters is a pleasurable indulgence that should be on everyone’s summer reading list.