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The Land of Mango Sunsets

The Land of Mango Sunsets

4.1 44
by Dorothea Benton Frank

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Her despicable husband left her for a lingerie model who's barely more than a teenager, and her kids are busy with their own lives. But before Miriam Elizabeth Swanson can work herself up into a true snit about it all, her newest tenant, Liz, arrives from Birmingham with plenty of troubles of her own. Then Miriam meets a man named Harrison, who makes her laugh,


Her despicable husband left her for a lingerie model who's barely more than a teenager, and her kids are busy with their own lives. But before Miriam Elizabeth Swanson can work herself up into a true snit about it all, her newest tenant, Liz, arrives from Birmingham with plenty of troubles of her own. Then Miriam meets a man named Harrison, who makes her laugh, makes her cry, and makes her feel like a brand-new woman.

It's almost too much for one Manhattan quasi-socialite to handle—so Miriam's escaping to the enchanted and mysterious land of Sullivans Island, deep in the low country of South Carolina, a place where she can finally get her head on straight—and perhaps figure out that pride is not what's going to keep her warm at night . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A middle-aged woman's self-discovery is predictable but not pedestrian in Frank's (Full of Grace; Pawleys Island) latest. A divorce has stalled Miriam Swanson's life: her snooty Hermès-swathed Manhattan friends abandoned her after her ex-husband "ran off with his whore"; one of her grown sons keeps her at arm's length, while her other son, a "nice nerd," stays beneath the family radar for months at a time; and the major drawback to her job at a museum is her boss—icy former friend Agnes Willis. In a twist that stretches disbelief, Miriam catches Agnes's husband, Truman, having a noisy rendezvous with Liz, the cute new tenant in Miriam's townhouse. After a brief interlude that sends Miriam to a South Carolina barrier island to visit her former cotillion queen mother—and meet the dreamy local Harrison Ford ("Not that wimpy actor")—Miriam reveals Truman's affair, with consequences that fuel the remainder of the book. Frank's narrative is heavy on healing—physically, mentally—and the importance of family, and though her sometimes delightfully nasty heroine is sympathetic, supporting cast members have one note apiece. This isn't Frank's finest, but it'll sate her fans. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Even Miriam Elizabeth Swanson's mother describes her as a fussbudget who is stubborn, unrealistic in her expectations of others, and a prig. Here she gets to tell her own story of life as a lonely divorcée estranged from her grown sons, living in New York City with a gay tenant and an African Gray parrot, and begging for assignments on charity committees. On a visit to the family cottage on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina, she is shocked by her socialite mother's new hippie lifestyle of growing organic vegetables, raising goats and chickens, and no longer dying her hair. But it takes an accident and an act of violence to force Miriam to alter her own life, which means returning to the island to learn to relax and love again. New York Timesbest-selling author Frank (Sullivan's Island) uses a great deal of humor to tell the story of a woman desperate for change and paints beautiful word pictures of the Low Country. Although some of the characters are stereotypes and others are not fleshed out enough, this is still a memorable book that should be in all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/07.]
—Lesa M. Holstine

Kirkus Reviews
In Frank's chatty latest (after Isle of Palms, 2003, etc.), a high-strung New York divorcee at loose ends changes her life for the better after getting in touch with her South Carolina roots. Miriam Swanson has spent her entire life playing by the rules, and what has it got her? Husband Charles left to marry and raise children with his longtime mistress; Miriam barely speaks to her two grown sons. At least she has a lovely Manhattan townhouse, though she's dismayed to learn that her new tenant, pretty southern transplant Liz, is sleeping with the husband of powerful society doyenne Agnes Willis, who's been condescending to Miriam for years. Aching for a change, Miriam flies off for a weekend at the family beach house on Sullivan's Island, lush location of many good memories. Her mother, the radiant Miss Josie, introduces her to an attractive retired banker named, of all things, Harrison Ford. Harrison dubs her "Mellie" and there is a palpable chemistry between the two, who are about the same age. But Miriam worries that he might actually be her mother's boy toy, especially after she catches them smoking weed together. Back in New York, an ugly confrontation with nasty Mrs. Willis provokes Miriam to spill the beans about Mr. Willis's affair. This has disastrous results for Liz, who is badly beaten by her creepy paramour. Guilt-ridden Miriam takes the battered girl to Sullivan's Island to convalesce. Meanwhile, she takes steps to get closer to her sons. She even offers to plan the wedding of Charlie and his Jamaican longtime girlfriend Priscilla. All this leads up, perhaps too quickly, to reconciliations, romance and even a sad goodbye. Scattered, but warming female-empowerment tale with aside order of southern magic.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Land of Mango Sunsets

A Novel
By Dorothea Benton Frank

William Morrow

Copyright © 2007 Dorothea Benton Frank
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-089238-8

Chapter One

Manhattan-Some Time Ago

Dear Ms. O'Hara, Your father was such a lovely man and this tragic loss will be felt by everyone who knew him for years to come. In my mind's eye, I can still see him cleaning my grill with a vengeance. That man surely did love a clean grill. Please accept my deepest and most sincere condolences. There is the small matter of his rent for the month of January. Not wanting to be an additional burden at this terribly sensitive time, I will simply deduct it from his security deposit. Although I am loath to broach this subject, I must notify you that the timely removal of his personal property will obviously impact the amount of money I am able to return to you. Once again, please accept my profound sympathy. Cordially, Miriam Elizabeth Swanson

Making my way across Sixty-first Street, I checked that the stamp was secure and slipped the envelope in a mailbox. The weather was fast changing from cold and damp to a bone-chilling arctic freeze. My snow boots were tucked in my PBS member's canvas tote bag, just in case. I knew it was not very chic to be traipsing around Manhattan with a canvas tote bag. But the proud logo sent amessage to all those people who enjoyed the benefits of Public Television but felt no compunction to support it even with the smallest of donations. The fact that people took without giving irked me. On the brighter side, I had always thought it would be great fun to be a volunteer in their phone bank during a campaign, to sit up there doing something so worthwhile as hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, looked on. I had submitted my name as a candidate for the job many times, but I had never been called. Perhaps I should have sent them a more thorough bio with a more flattering photograph. Something youthful. Ah, me. Another disappointment. Another rejection. But what member of the human race didn't have unfulfilled little fantasies? Chin up, Miriam, I told myself, and trudged on.

The weather continued to deteriorate and Charles Dickens himself would have agreed that it was a perfect day for a funeral. Bulbous gray clouds lowered toward the earth and covered every inch of the sky. They were closing in and threatening to burst. It would surely pour snow or sleet at any moment. There was nothing I could do about the weather or my feelings of gloom brought on by a claustrophobic sky. After all these years in New York, I was as resigned to winter as I was to any number of things that fed my love/hate relationship with the city. Anyway, where else was I to go? Live with my sons? No way. Live with my mother? Not in a million years.

I adjusted my muffler to protect my cheeks. At least I had written Ms. O'Hara a note, and despite the inclement conditions, I had been sure to get it in the mail. I couldn't help but pause to think there was something so lazy about people who abandoned fountain pens or pens of any kind in favor of the expeditiousness of e-mail on any and every occasion. Including expressions of sympathy. Believe it or not, I actually heard a story of someone receiving an e-mail telling of a close friend's death. Including a frowning emoticon, God save us. The reason I remember was that it was so completely absurd to me. And speaking of fountain pens, they now had a disposable variety available at all those office-supply chain stores, which to me defeated the purpose of using a fountain pen in the first place. Wasn't it about holding a beautiful object in your hands and feeling its solid weight? Its worth and the importance of its history? Remember when penmanship was taught in the classroom and its beautiful execution was prized?

But that is what the world has come to. Quick this and disposable that. To my dying day, I would remain a lonely standard-bearer in a world that continued to toss aside every inch of civility we have ever known. Handwritten notes seemed to have gone the way of corsages-their existence was rare. It just was the way it was.

I hurried along to the funeral service, tiptoeing inside the church and finding my seat next to my dearest friend and other tenant, Kevin Dolan.

"I have always loved St. Bartholomew's," I whispered to him. I removed my coat and gloves and, as inconspicuously as possible, settled in the pew. The service had already begun and I regretted the fact that I was late, even if it was only by a few minutes. In the steamer trunk of middle age, folded, packed, and wrinkled with one physical and emotional insult after another, perimenopause had delivered a measure of intolerance, even toward myself.

"Me, too," Kevin whispered back, and sighed. "Poor Mr. O'Hara. Whoever thought he would just drop dead on the crosstown bus? Just like that! Poof. Gone." He popped his wrist in front of him in a gesture that equated Mr. O'Hara's death with a magician's now you see it, now you don't!

"Hush," whispered someone in front of us.

We paused in silence in deference to the occasion and then couldn't resist continuing our recap of the fragile nature of life in the Big Apple. That was the effect Kevin always had on me. In his presence I became a young gossiping washwoman, emphasis on young.

"Pockets picked and ID stolen," I added at a carefully calibrated low volume of clear displeasure. "Disgusting!"

"Five days in the city morgue? Dreadful! If I hadn't called his family ..."

"He's lucky he wasn't eaten by rats. Thank heavens for dental records ..."

"Who could believe he went to a dentist with his snaggleteeth?" Kevin said.

"Please. He was my ..." said the woman in front of us, her shoulders racking with sobs.


Excerpted from The Land of Mango Sunsets by Dorothea Benton Frank Copyright © 2007 by Dorothea Benton Frank. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Brief Biography

New Jersey and Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Place of Birth:
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina

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Land of Mango Sunsets 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again, Dot Frank has written a can't put donw page turner. 'The Land of Mango Sunsets' will have you laughing and crying. It is full of Dot's humor and quick wit. A definite must read!!!
NancyChase More than 1 year ago
Dorothea Frank has created another wonderful story and I just thought Land of Mango Sunsets was just a great read. The characters are clever and appealing especially Miriam Swanson. Actually, I felt that she gave all the variety of splendid characters real feelings that I could relate too. This is a great book to take to the beach and read. It's an easy read and with the wonderful descriptive scenes of South Carolina, that Ms. Frank portrays you feel like you are roaming around in the beautiful state. I hope I haven't given away too much of the story for those who haven't read it. In summary, it's a delightful and refreshing story with humor, romance, a bit of mystery, and some valid issues concerning our environment. Grab it and enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Last year I was introduced to Dorthea Benton Frank's books at a local bookstore in Beaufort, South Carolina. I was hooked and read all of her books and fell in love with the characters and their stories. Each novel is truly magical and once you start reading one you can't put it down. I met an author at a book-signing in Kansas City. She was from Oklahoma. I proceeded to tell her about Dorthea and she was buying her books before the end of the day. How blessed we are to have Doorthea's books! Please don't stop giving them to us. A hooked fan in the Midwest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Frank but it won't be my last. I'm now a new fan! This was so entertaining and perfect for the summer. The characters were a riot and all had lessons to learn on the importance of family and friends. The story was funny and touching at the same time.
Pinkribbongal More than 1 year ago
I so thoroughly enjoyed this book and having just stayed in the area for a week, all the more meaningful. Pinkribbongal
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am new to the stories of Dorothea Benton Frank but have become an instant fan. Her writing style is wonderful to read and her characters are not to be missed. This book is full of heart, laughs and lessons learned about oneself. The humor that is so well written will have some phrases staying with you as part of your own vocabulary now. Too many things stay in the vocabulary of one character you will come to love, named Harry. The heart that is given in telling what could truly be called a 'coming of age' story for adults of any age, will just make you sigh and ready to read another Dorothea book, maybe on Sullivans Island watching a beautiful Mango Sunset. Don't miss this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just had the best reading time this book. It's chock full of giggles, antiques, food, zany characters, awesome locations, and transformation. Buy it because you will love this book.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Meet Miriam Elizabeth Swanson who describes herself thusly in New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank's tale 'The Land of Mango Sunsets': 'I am older now and it doesn't matter anymore if someone thinks I am a fool. It makes me laugh because I have been a fool so often that if you could stack the occasions one upon another, they would reach the top of the sky and then spiral away into their own orbit..' That's a pretty accurate self-evaluation as Miriam has made mistakes, some inconsequential, others harmful and, sadly, a few damaging. She's describing herself as she sits on the porch of her family home on Sullivan's Island in the Low country of South Carolina. Miriam has retreated here in the hope of finding perspective and healing. Her husband of two decades has dropped her for a much younger and prettier woman, her two sons offer no consolation - one avoids her and the other has all he can do to care for himself. Once part of a social set she has been dropped by all of her friends as soundly as her husband dropped her. Enough woe? Not at all. Miriam's museum boss is a former friend who treats her with barely concealed disdain, and she has had to turn her Manhattan townhouse into apartments because she needs the money (what happened to a good lawyer?) And, she finds that one of her tenants has become a victim. However, when Miriam returns to Sullivan's Island she finds new opportunities in the very attractive form of retired banker, Harrison Ford (no relation to the actor). Now, if you're wondering about the title, it refers to the big red orange ball the sun became at sunset on Sullivan's Island, as well as the sliced mangoes Miriam's parents enjoyed at breakfast. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again Frank has created a character driven book that includes friends, family members, and some not so wonderful people. The main character is still the lowcountry area around Charleston, South Carolina. We all are mothers, daughters of mothers, or need mothering from time to time in our lives. In MANGO SUNSETS, Frank has given us examples of the best and the worst or mothering advice and comfort. Her writing makes you feel like a summer evening where you are sitting on the front porch watching the sun going down and sharing 'What did you do today?'. The colors of the sunset are beautiful, and peace comes from knowing that the one you are with really cares who you are and what is happening in your life. The 'mango' is the spice that makes this book many steps about others similar reads. Keep them coming Dorothea!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not wait for this novel's release and bought it from B&N the day it was issued. Moving to the north from South Carolina, I absolutely love to read Dorthea's depictions of the beautiful South Carolina low country for 'escape.' It is truly as she describes in her charater's eyes when they leave the north to travel to SC, and exactly the way I feel when I travel back home! Her characters and story lines are also outstanding. I was, however, a little dissapointed with the depth of character development in Mango Sunsets, in comparison to 'for example' Plantation and Sullivan's Island. I thought the ending was rather rushed, and I did relate well with the mother-daughter relationship, especially at the end. In any event, I could not put this one down, as with all of Dorthea's books. I am a big DBF fan and I am already awaiting her next book for another Low country escape!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Living in New York, Miriam Swanson finds her life nuked since her husband ran off with ¿his whore'. Her friends have abandoned the middle aged woman as if she was the one cheating on her spouse making it more difficult to adjust is her boss Agnes Willis who is one of those bosom buddies who give Miriam the cold shoulder. Worse she caught Agnes¿ husband Truman in a seemingly compromising position with her tenant Liz. Her two adult sons are polite, but avoid her like she has the plague. It seems the only folks who talk to her are her parrot and her tenants with each squawking at her. --- Miriam decides to escape the city by visiting her socialite mother Miss Josie on the South Carolina barrier island Sullivan. She is stunned when mom no longer cares about fashion as the older female has gone bohemian. Miss Josie introduces Miriam to Harrison Ford (the banker that is), but though attracted to him, she fears he is Miss Josie¿s fling. So she returns to New York where she reveals Truman¿s indiscretion leading to his girlfriend¿s beating. Feeling guilty, Miriam takes Liz to Sullivan's Island to recover but the trip is more healing to Miriam who begins to reach out to those who care about her. --- THE LAND OF MANGO SUNSETS is an interesting character study starring a lonely woman who finally understands she must reach out if she wants people to reach back. The story line is driven solely by Miriam with the secondary ensemble mostly relating to her even when for instance Truman is married to Agnes and having an affair with Liz. Though the ending seems very abrupt and improbable as time may heal all wounds, but the key is it takes time. Still fans of Dorothea Benton Frank's South Carolina tales will enjoy the return to SULLIVAN¿S ISLAND. --- Harriet Klausner
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Could not put it down!
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Well I past it before... as a kit. I was carried a cross by a cat because my friend Black Tail thought it would be fun to go to the other side.
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MariaKathleen More than 1 year ago
It was a joy to follow along as Mellie reclaimed her soul. Another peek into a life with a less-than-perfect history. Dorothea Frank handles this well. Thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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