Author: Dorothea Benton Frank


Book Review: The Hurricane Sisters

June 24, 2014 Book Review, reviews 5

Book Review:  The Hurricane SistersThe Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank
Published by William Morrow on June 3rd, 2014
Genres: chick-lit, Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: purchased


The Hurricane Sisters follows three generations of women living in Charleston and adjacent Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.  As in any family, this one has its share of dysfunctions, secrets and drama.  The novel opens with the celebration of Maisie’s 80th birthday – mother to Liz and grandmother to Ivy {childhood nickname from his  Clayton Bernard Waters, IV} and his younger sister, Ashley.  Ivy escaped the family drama and emotional digs by moving to San Francisco, but when he brings his partner both in business and in life to the birthday celebration, mom and dad cannot help but express their disapproval of his lifestyle.

The same is true for Ashley.  She is living in her parent’s beach house on Sullivan’s Island with roommate and best friend, Mary Beth {for free}.  Both girls are only making around $10/hour in their respective jobs although roommate Mary Beth has her teaching degree and Ashley “wasted” her time in college studying art.  Clayton and Liz express their disapproval of daughter and Ashley’s seemingly wasting her life away {and parental financial support} by working in an art gallery and painting in the shed behind the beach house.

Grandmother Maisie gets her shots in by being overly supportive of her grandkids and their choices and by bringing up her deceased daughter and Liz’s sister, Juliet, in every other sentence.  This, of course, leads Liz to be extremely jealous and even more combative towards her mother and hateful to her daughter.

Whew! With a family like that who needs enemies, right?

Father Clayton does some kind of investment work in New York City during the week and is home in Charleston on the weekends.  Mother Liz works for the local domestic violence shelter and is quite passionate about her work with the shelter.   Clayton and Liz hired 60 years young debonair, Skipper, to be Maisie’s driver and helpmate but to their mortification, Skipper becomes Maisie’s young stud and moves in with her {the announcement is made at Maisie’s birthday dinner!}.

Just your average southern family.

I really wanted to like this one.  I’ve only read one of Frank’s fifteen novels, Shem Creek, probably a hundred years ago and remember enjoying it, and everything I’ve ever read is so glowing about Dottie Frank’s novels.  I just knew I would love this one.


Perhaps it’s that I’ve been reading more literary fiction rather than contemporary women’s fiction?  I found the dialogue to be grating and stilted.  I understand how the slang words used were part of the storyline, but overall the conversations between the characters {in my opinion} just did not seem real or to flow well.  What does “YOLO” mean anyways? I have an 18, 20, and 22 year old and they don’t talk like that.  At all.

The point of view disagreed with me.  While typically I enjoy hearing from different characters, The Hurricane Sisters had Maisie, Clayton, Liz, and Ashley all taking on different chapters and talking to the reader as if we were sitting in a bar and they were disclosing their most intimate family secrets to me, a perfect stranger.  For example, Clayton’s chapter begins with “Sorry to interrupt but you need to know my story too.”

The neat wrap-up, during an almost hurricane no less, did not seem to be plausible, and it felt rushed – as if Frank had run out of steam with the story.

The things I DID like about The Hurricane Sisters are solid and shows Frank’s ability to know her characters.

The research Frank did into domestic violence was spot on.  The grooming and mind control of a victim;  the victim second and third guessing her own judgment; family members discounting or not recognizing signs and perpetrators being the least expected guy in the room.  Frank did an excellent job showing how even the brightest person can fall under the spell of a sweet-tongued devil.

Another aspect of the novel that resonated with me {probably because of the age of my own children} was the push and pull of Ashley and her parents regarding parental support.  At what point do you push your babies out of the nest and expect them to fly?  Frank really got it with her ability to show the relationship of allowing your child to grow up, stepping back as a parent while learning to be that parent to your adult children.  does that make sense? Much different from being a parent to a 10 year old that’s for sure!

Dorothea Benton Frank is the loveliest of authors – I was fortunate to attend a luncheon with her recently and was completely charmed by her.  Which makes not loving this book the much harder to actually share with you.  With that said, please do tell me in the comments above what you thought of this one if you’ve read it.  Goodreads is filled with positive reviews of The Hurricane Sisters so please do check out some of the other opinions.

What was the last book you read that you expected to enjoy but really just didn’t?  

Was it by an author you truly like and admired?