Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: The Hurricane Sisters

Summary: 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. -- William Morrow

A few weeks ago, my family went on vacation to the Outer Banks. I packed a lot of books and actually ended up reading most of them (Now to just write the reviews for them!) One book that I definitely knew I had to read on my beach vacation was THE HURRICANE SISTERS by Dorothea Benton Frank. I knew I'd like the book if I read it on my couch in Central PA; however, I just felt like a book about the South Carolina Lowcountry should be appreciated while surrounded by waves and sand! Little did I know that an Cat 2 hurricane would actually hit the Outer Banks while I was there!

At its heart, THE HURRICANE SISTERS is an entertaining (and touching) story about family, specifically three generations of women. There is Maisie the 80 year old matriarch who is truly a piece of work and always has to be right, her middle-aged daughter Liz who definitely has her own issues with work and marriage, and her granddaughter Ashley who is trying to find her her own way both financially and in her new relationship with an up-and-coming politician.

As if the tensions in their personal lives isn't enough, a hurricane is threatening to hit the family home and threaten everything they hold dear. Fortunately, they find the strength to overcome their adversities by turning to each other and realizing the power of family and love.

Of course, I enjoyed THE HURRICANE SISTERS! It was a terrific beach book with a little bit of everything. Plus, it was written by Ms. Frank. She's just a fantastic writer who always seems to write books that both entertain readers and touch their hearts. I've had the opportunity to meet Ms. Frank a few times, and she's a hoot! Her humor and passion most definitely come through in her characters and writing style. And personally, I think that's why she's so successful!

One thing in particular that I appreciated about this book was that Ms. Frank delved into a very serious topic -- abused women. I remember her telling me that when she was researching the topic, she was surprised to learn that South Carolina is the state with the highest percentage of abused women. I liked that this novel explored the subject matter both from a charity/support side as well as a victim side; and I appreciated that the victims weren't necessarily what comes to mind when many readers think of abused women. I hope that this novel brings to light just how serious an issue this is in our country.

I also really liked the messages in this story. Obviously, the lessons about abuse were important; however, I also liked the messages about family. There is no doubt that the characters in this novel (and the family unit) were quirky -- seriously quirky -- and they had their issues with each other; however, when the going got tough, they realized how fortunate they are to have each other. Call me mushy, but I love stories with positive messages like that!

Finally, I really appreciated Ms. Frank's writing style. While parts of this book were anything but light and fluffy, there was a great deal of humor in the novel. I loved the way she balanced the serious issues with the comic relief -- I suspect that's not an easy task to pull off! She also did a great job of creating memorable characters who were genuine and actually reminded me of people I know.

THE HURRICANE SISTERS would make a great book club selection. I'm scratching my head why there isn't a formal discussion guide, but you definitely don't need one to discuss this book. There are many themes to explore including abuse, marriage, infidelity, control, second chances, friendship, love, parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, forgiveness, and more.

Summer wouldn't be the same without a Dorothea Benton Frank book like THE HURRICANE SISTERS. Make sure this one is in your beach or pool bag!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I love the way Frank can tackle serious subjects with humor. I'm looking forward to this book!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I love her books!

Kim@Time2Read said...

I reviewed this one not too long ago. Sadly, I had to read it on my couch instead of on the beaches of the Outer Banks...
I completely agree that this is a great discussion book that does not really need a discussion guide. (My review is here if you are interested.