Long before the National Football League’s domestic violence scandal generated headlines, Dorothea Benton Frank placed the issue at the center of her latest novel, The Hurricane Sisters (William Morrow Hardcover).
The Friends of the Manhasset Public Library were also ahead of the curve because they recruited Benton Frank soon after that book’s June 2014 publication to be the guest speaker at their annual fundraiser. It is being held on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the Strathmore Vanderbilt Country Club, Manhasset, and includes a dessert buffet.
Tickets are $40 per person. The admission fee entitles each attendee to a copy of The Hurricane Sisters, which Ms. Frank will discuss and sign. Open to Manhasset residents and non-residents alike, the event’s organizers are requiring advance registration. They can be made through FriendsofManhassetLibrary@gmail.com. For more information, call 516-627-6248.
Set in the author’s native South Carolina, The Hurricane Sisters is a briskly paced look at three generations of women in one family. Maisie Pringle is an 80-year-old widow who is living out-of-wedlock with a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran. Maisie’s daughter, the 50-something Liz Waters, is development director at My Sister’s House, a real-life nonprofit in Charleston, S.C., where women and children in immediate danger from domestic violence are eligible for services at no charge. Ashley Waters, Liz’s 23-year-old daughter, is a College of Charleston graduate and aspiring artist, stuck for the moment in a low-wage job. But Ashley can afford to have one because she and her college buddy, Mary Beth Smythe, live rent-free at the Sullivan’s Island beachfront home owned by Waters’ parents, Liz and Clayton Waters.
Benton Frank brings these characters vividly to life by having most of them narrate at least one chapter, surveying the action from their point of view. Sure, they’ve got problems. Yet access to financial resources is not one of them. Just about everybody in The Hurricane Sisters is always dining out, emptying wine bottles, or hopping on a plane to New York, where Clayton spends weekdays working as an investment banker and violating a few of the 10 Commandments. An aside: the book’s depiction of Manhattan reminded me of The Simpsons episode where Homer is asked if he has The Devil’s phone number. Homer’s response: “It starts with 212, right?”
The domestic violence, and hurricane, story lines emerge about halfway through this page-turner as Liz recruits major donors for My Sister’s House, learns the truth about her long-dead sister’s demise, and becomes concerned as Ashley begins dating an up-and-coming state Senator. Maisie is unimpressed with the politician. In grandma’s opinion, he’s “no Fritz Hollings,” a reference to the 92-year-old former U.S. Senator from South Carolina who sought the Democratic presidential nomination 30 years ago. (Hey, I thought Maisie was attracted only to men under the age of 70?)
Benton Frank, who was born and raised in Sullivan’s Island, S.C., splits her time between the Palmetto State and a Montclair, N.J., residence. She and her husband, Peter, are the parents of two adult children, Victoria and William.
“Dorothea has a reputation as an engaging speaker and has many fans throughout the U.S.,” said Rosanne Vogel, president of the Friends of the Manhasset Library, and the person who arranged The New York Times bestselling author’s appearance. “She [Benton Frank] is holding her first-ever FanFest in the Charleston area to meet and greet her fans, and to introduce them to the area she writes so beautifully about.”
The November 2014 Charleston gathering has already sold out, Vogel added, although space is still available for Benton Frank aficionados who want to see her on Oct. 15 in Manhasset.
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBarry@optonline.net