I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour celebrating the paperback release of The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank.
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.
In The Hurricane Sisters, we meet three generations of Southern women, including dynamo matriarch Maisie, her daughter Liz, and granddaughter Ashley. All three have secrets, all three have struggles.
Maisie is the quintessential 80-year-old who’s lived long enough to tell it like it is. Her romantic relationship with (gasp!) a younger man, the 65-year-old who was originally hired to be her driver, scandalizes Liz and Clayton, but their own relationship isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Maisie is the absolute life of the party in this book — she’s feisty, opinionated, funny, and full of passion. She’s also not afraid to tell the hard truths and give out some pretty stern advice, which is exactly what some of these confused family members need.
When Ashley becomes infatuated with a rising state politican, everyone in the family warns her to watch out. In Charleston, anyone of good family knows everyone else’s business, and Porter Galloway has an unsavory reputation that’s only whispered at. Meanwhile, on the surface, he’s all Southern charm and good looks, and Ashley is too swept up in her dreams of being the next Jackie O. to take the warnings seriously.
Of course, the various threads all come together in interesting and unexpected ways… and of course, Maisie is right about everything!
The dark thread throughout this mostly upbeat novel is violence against women. Liz is a fundraiser for a women’s shelter, and through her pitches to prospective donors, we learn some of the bleak and staggering facts about the incredibly high numbers of domestic violence cases in the US, as well as the fact that South Carolina is among the worst on record in terms of domestic homicide and violence. It’s not exactly a surprise when a certain character is revealed to be abusive, but it’s still startling and harrowing to read and to see how easily this person manages to hide in plain sight and continue carrying out abusive acts in relationship after relationship.
I was annoyed initially to see Ashley’s naiveté, especially knowing her mother’s work. But I think this book makes a very good point, that it’s one thing to know academically what abuse is and what it looks like, and quite another thing to recognize it in real life without prettying it up with denial and excuses. I won’t go into too much detail here as I don’t want to give away any major plot points, but let’s just say that what I initially thought was a too-light response to terrible acts turns into major empowerment as the family comes together to make sure that abusive behavior is not swept under the rug.
I ended up loving all of the family relationships, the intricacies of their connections and interdependence, and the various ways they all misunderstand one another. By hearing the story from mulitple points of view, we’re treated to the inside scoop on why an action that one family member finds incomprehensible actually makes complete sense and has a totally different meaning when explained by someone else.
An especially delightful component of this book is the lush description of the Charleston area. The author does a splendid job of conveying the beauty of the Lowcountry, and made me absolutely mad with nostalgia (I lived in Charleston once upon a time for a couple of years) and dying for a return visit.
If you enjoy books that include family drama, quirky characters, and humorous dialogue — but aren’t afraid to tackle more serious subjects as well — definitely check out The Hurricane Sisters. Now available in paperback, it’s a slice of Southern fiction that I think would make a great beach read this summer.
About the Author:
New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including Lowcountry Summer and Return to Sullivans Island. She resides in the New York area with her husband.
Title: The Hurricane Sisters
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: 2014 (paperback released April 7, 2015)
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Adult contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours
For further information, stop by TLC Book Tours to view other blog tour hosts.