Frank, Dorothea Benton
Frank, Dorothea Benton
Born in Sullivan's Island, SC; married Peter Frank; children: two daughters. Education: Attended Fashion Institute of America, Atlanta, GA.
Home—Montclair, NJ; SC. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, fundraiser, advocate. Worked as a fashion buyer and representative; volunteer fundraiser for arts and education; advocate for literacy and women's issues. New Jersey Cultural Trust, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Drumthwatchet Foundations, member; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ, and Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta, GA, trustee. Former board member of American Stage Company, New Jersey Chamber Music Society, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and the Community Foundation of New Jersey.
Writers for Readers.
Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale, Jove Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale, Jove Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Isle of Palms: A Lowcountry Tale, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Shem Creek: A Lowcountry Tale, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Pawleys Island: A Lowcountry Tale, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Full of Grace, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
The Land of Mango Sunsets, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
The Christmas Pearl, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
The author's books have been adapted for audio, including Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale, Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale, and The Land of Mango Sunsets.
Dorothea Benton Frank is the author of several best-selling novels about the region of South Carolina where she was born and raised. These "Lowcountry Tales" are all set along the South Carolina coast, feature strong female protagonists, and rely on humor to carry the day. A one-time fashion buyer who traveled the globe in search of haute couture, Frank began writing about family relations and her home region after the death of her mother in 1993. "There wasn't any real way for me to deal with my grief because I was in New Jersey without any family members," Frank told Jay MacDonald in a BookPage Web site interview. "So I began writing to try to put all my feelings down on paper."
The result was the 1999 Sullivan's Island: A Lowcountry Tale, "a story of redemption set in South Carolina's steamy low country," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. When Susan Hamilton Hayes discovers her husband's infidelity, her charmed life in Charleston is shattered. Looking to rebuild her life, she retreats to her childhood home on Sullivan's Island, where she becomes a journalist and finally faces the death of her father decades earlier. The arrival, at the end of the novel, of a perfect mate out of Susan's childhood, is a bit too "picture-perfect," according to the same Publishers Weekly contributor, but Frank's "setting and … characters are blazingly authentic" in this "rich read." Jacket blurbs from other South Carolina writers, such as Pat Conroy and Anne Rivers Siddons, helped propel Frank's debut novel onto the New York Times best-seller list.
Frank followed up this success two years later with Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale, a "colorful contemporary romance [that] effortlessly evokes the lush beauty of the South Carolina Lowcountry," as a critic for Publishers Weekly noted. In this tale, Frank looks more closely at the myriad bonds of family life; here the author presents another woman, Caroline Wembley Levine, coming to terms with her past. Caroline leaves Manhattan to care for her mother, who has reportedly gone mad. Returning to her home in Tall Pines Plantation, she presides over her mother's death and finally sees how the death of her father long ago "served as a catalyst for the family's disintegration," according to the Publishers Weekly contributor. Caroline is also able to reconcile her differences with her brother, Trip.
In Frank's third fiction foray, the 2003 Isle of Palms: A Lowcountry Tale, she tells of the "midlife flowering of Anna Lutz Abbot, an independent-minded salon owner who has learned how to hold her tongue over a teasing comb to keep her clientele coming back," as MacDonald described the plot on the BookPage Web site. Once again, the past impinges on the present: as a ten-year-old, Anna lost her mother. Her father, at the insistence of Anna's grandmother, sold the family home on Isle of Palms and moved to Charleston, where the young Anna was raised. However, Anna is committed to returning to her childhood home. Once she does, things are not quite so simple as she had planned. Yet she is able to find an "ad hoc family," as MacDonald commented, to "fill the void left by less-than-perfect biological ones." These include the Greek chorus of Miss Angel and Miss Mavis, who record the goings-on about town; Anna's gay ex-husband, who has lofty plans for the salon; her new boyfriend, Arthur, from the North; her pal Lucy; and assorted other denizens of Isle of Palms. This third tale of the South Carolina Lowcountry is "sure to delight Frank's fans and win new admirers," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, who also observed that "Frank's brilliant stroke is to give her narrator a voice like nobody else." Booklist's Carol Haggas had further praise for the novel, noting that Frank "waggishly mix[es] high jinks with high drama" and creates "sassy and smart, warm and true" characters. A Kirkus Reviews contributor typified the novel as a "good-natured, just-us-girls babblefest," and Julia Bookman, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, commented that both "author and Anna like to remind folks of the things that matter most: finding inner peace, learning to forgive and cherishing friends who become family."
In Shem Creek: A Lowcountry Tale, Frank features single mother Linda Breland. Barely getting by in New Jersey, Linda takes her two teenage daughters to live in her hometown of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The novel follows Linda as she lands a job as a restaurant manager and begins a romance with the restaurant's owner. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "delivers another novel rich in the charms of small[-]town South Carolina."
Frank's next "Lowcountry" book, Pawleys Island: A Lowcountry Tale, revolves around the inhabitants of a small southern isle where Rebecca Simms moves to get away from memories of her failed marriage. However, once on the island, Rebecca finds that the people there will not let her hide from her past. "This compulsively readable novel tackles the weighty topics of marital infidelity and self-transformation," wrote Misha Stone in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "Frank's absorbing narrative manages to feel both authentically Southern and universally empathetic."
Full of Grace finds Big Al and Connie Russo retired in Hilton Head along with Connie's domineering mother. Their daughter, Grace, is seeing Dr. Michael Higgins, a stem-cell researcher who is not liked by the Russos because of his work and because he is also a lapsed Catholic. The Russo family soon faces another dilemma when Michael develops brain cancer, and Grace asks for her parent's help. In a review in Booklist, Carol Haggas called the author "a masterful storyteller" and went on to write that the "vibrantly eccentric Russo clan may be her most endearing creation yet." Book reporter.com Web site contributor Amie Taylor noted: "I guarantee that by the end of this funny and meaningful novel, you'll feel like one of the family."
Miriam Elizabeth Swanson finds her socialite life disintegrating in The Land of Mango Sunsets. Left by her husband for a "trophy wife" and ignored by her children and former friends, Miriam is soon carving up her Manhattan townhouse into apartments to make money. When a tenant is attacked by the husband of one of Miriam's former friends, she finds herself on a new path in life as she becomes a confidant to the attacked woman and then decides to move to Sullivan's Island. Lesa M. Holstine, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "uses a great deal of humor to tell the story of a woman desperate for change." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "her sometimes delightfully nasty heroine is sympathetic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA), July 6, 2003, Julia Bookman, review of Isle of Palms: A Lowcountry Tale, p. C5.
Booklist, July, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Isle of Palms, p. 1864; May 1, 2005, Misha Stone, review of Pawleys Island: A Lowcountry Tale, p. 1569; May 15, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of Full of Grace, p. 22; March 1, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of The Land of Mango Sunsets, p. 62.
Florida Times Union, July 13, 2003, review of Isle of Palms.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Isle of Palms, pp. 626-627.
Library Journal, March 15, 2007, Lesa M. Holstine, review of The Land of Mango Sunsets, p. 57.
MBR Bookwatch, May, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Pawleys Island.
Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL), May 7, 2000, Nancy Pate, review of Sullivan's Island, p. F8.
Publishers Weekly, January 24, 2000, review of Sullivan's Island, p. 298; February 28, 2000, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Aw, Shucks," p. 19; May 28, 2001, review of Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale, p. 57; June 30, 2003, review of Isle of Palms, p. 54; July 7, 2003, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Palms Up," p. 16; August 2, 2004, review of Shem Creek: A Lowcountry Tale, p. 53; April 11, 2005, review of Pawleys Island, p. 33; February 5, 2007, review of The Land of Mango Sunsets, p. 42.
Berkley Jove Authors Web site,http://berkleyjoveauthors.com/ (March 24, 2004).
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (September 15, 2007), Joan Burton, review of The Land of Mango Sunsets.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (July, 2003), Jay MacDonald, "Keeping It Light in the Lowcountry"; (September 15, 2007), Lynn Hamilton, "Frankly Speaking" (interview with author).
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 15, 2007), Amie Taylor, review of Full of Grace.
Dorothea Benton Frank Home Page,http://www.dotfrank.com (October 25, 2007).