Pawleys Island [NOOK Book]


Catapulted from her home, her marriage and her children, artist Rebecca Simms has come to Pawleys Island to hide herself from herself. Little does she know that on this “arrogantly shabby” family playground, she’ll encounter three people who will change her life: a wise and irresistible octogenarian who will pry her secrets from her, a gallery owner who caters to interior ...
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Pawleys Island

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Catapulted from her home, her marriage and her children, artist Rebecca Simms has come to Pawleys Island to hide herself from herself. Little does she know that on this “arrogantly shabby” family playground, she’ll encounter three people who will change her life: a wise and irresistible octogenarian who will pry her secrets from her, a gallery owner who caters to interior decorators and heaven save us, tourists, and a retired attorney from Columbia who’s complacent in her fat and sassy life until Rebecca’s stormy advent.

With characteristic humor and a full cast of eccentric and wonderfully lovable characters, Dorothea Benton Frank brings us a refreshingly honest and funny novel about friendship, family, and finding happiness by becoming who you are meant to be...
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Frank's fifth Lowcountry Tale is a lively story about friendship and family, Southern-style. On the small South Carolina barrier island that gives the book its title, semiretired attorney Abigail Thurmond spends most of her days playing golf and gossiping with her best friend, the portly, lovably aristocratic Huey Valentine. But their comfortable lives of leisure are turned upside-down with the arrival of one diminutive Rebecca Sims. Becca's obvious artistic talent and poise make it easy for Huey to show her art and hire her to manage his art gallery, but when his 86-year-old mother unearths Becca's tragic past, Huey can't help sticking his aquiline nose in her business. Once an attentive wife and loving mother of two in Charleston, Becca became the victim of her abusive husband, who turned her children against her and then filed for divorce. Abigail and Huey must help their new friend, of course, and as they draw closer to one another through Becca's tribulations, Abigail is finally able to examine the ghosts that have haunted her for years, and Huey gets to reveal a (pretty unsurprising) secret of his own. Frank's absorbing narrative manages to feel both authentically Southern and universally empathetic. Agent, Amy Berkower. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"[A] funny-to-the-bone Southern novel...Incredibly entertaining." - State (Columbia, SC)

"Pawleys Island is imbued with a vivid sense of place that is so appealing that readers may want to pack up the book and head to the Carolina coast." - Boston Globe

"A great summer read as could only be written by a Southern belle." - Sunday Oklahoman

"Fans of the author Dorothea Benton Frank will love [this] novel...The book is humorous, the customs are generations old, the characters are the ones the reader wants to be around, and the locale fits them perfectly." - Charlotte Observer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101220597
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/2/2006
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 21,880
  • File size: 378 KB

Meet the Author

Dorothea Benton Frank's first novel, SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, debuted on the NY Times list at number nine and now has well over one million copies in print. Subsequent novels have also reached the NY Times bestseller list. She is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from The College of Charleston and a Doctorate of Fine Arts from Bloomfield College. Dorothea is an avid cook, enjoys fly fishing, reading and travel. She divides her time between the Lowcountry of South Carolina and New Jersey.


An author who has helped to put the South Carolina Lowcountry on the literary map, Dorothea Benton Frank hasn't always lived near the ocean, but the Sullivan's Island native has a powerful sense of connection to her birthplace. Even after marrying a New Yorker and settling in New Jersey, she returned to South Carolina regularly for visits, until her mother died and she and her siblings had to sell their family home. "It was very upsetting," she told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Suddenly, I couldn't come back and walk into my mother's house. I was grieving."

After her mother's death, writing down her memories of home was a private, therapeutic act for Frank. But as her stack of computer printouts grew, she began to try to shape them into a novel. Eventually a friend introduced her to the novelist Fern Michaels, who helped her polish her manuscript and find an agent for it.

Published in 2000, Frank's first "Lowcountry tale," Sullivan's Island made it to the New York Times bestseller list. Its quirky characters and tangled family relationships drew comparisons to the works of fellow southerners Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy (both of whom have provided blurbs for Frank's books). But while Conroy's novels are heavily angst-ridden, Frank sweetens her dysfunctional family tea with humor and a gabby, just-between-us-girls tone. To her way of thinking, there's a gap between serious literary fiction and standard beach-blanket fare that needs to be filled.

"I don't always want to read serious fiction," Frank explained to The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "But when I read fiction that's not serious, I don't want to read brain candy. Entertain me, for God's sake." Since her debut, she has faithfully followed her own advice, entertaining thousands of readers with books Pat Conroy calls "hilarious and wise" and characters Booklist describes as "sassy and smart,."

These days, Frank has a house of her own on Sullivan's Island, where she spends part of each year. "The first thing I do when I get there is take a walk on the beach," she admits. Evidently, this transplanted Lowcountry gal is staying in touch with her soul.

Good To Know

Before she started writing, Frank worked as a fashion buyer in New York City. She is also a nationally recognized volunteer fundraiser for the arts and education, and an advocate of literacy programs and women's issues.

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First Chapter


People have secrets. Everyone does. And, at one point or another, many people say they would like to run away and start life over in a place where no one knows their business. I know that I have felt that way. More than once. And I am no stranger to disaster, and most certainly no one would ever call me a coward. Coward or not, sometimes you just want to slip away into the night.

What drives us to that point? Did you do something horrible? Or, did something horrible happen to you?

Maybe you just feel like you need some anonymity. You have endured all the questioning, opinion-giving and gossiping humanity you can bear. It's time to strip away everything, all the clutter and noise, and look at your life, how it got to that point and figure out what you intend to do about it. At least, that's how it was for me.

When my tragedies occurred and getting through the days felt like pulling a wagon of bricks that was missing a back wheel, the only choice was to move back to Pawleys Island and attempt to put everything in perspective. I should have packed a seat belt. First, I met Huey Valentine. Huey, one of the most wonderful men who ever lived, befriended me and eventually gave me the swift kick I needed to put down my golf clubs for a while. That kick came when Rebecca showed up and Armageddoned the pattern of self-indulgent complacency that ordered my shallow and insignificant life, which in all my precious stupidity, I thought I was enjoying. Yeah, I thought it was fabulous-okay, it wasn't fabulous and I knew it. But it was usually better than bearable, and to be frank, until she appeared, I couldn't think of any better way to occupy my time. Golf and tennis. Tennis and golf. A party here, an opening there. Pretty shallow and useless.

I didn't think I had much in common with Rebecca until the divorce was all over, only to discover we had everything in common; we were simply at different stages in our lives. If her parachute hadn't landed on Huey's doorstep, I'd still be treadmilling in my sandy island rut. And if we all weren't there to engage Huey's mind, his life would have been one narrow garden path slowly tiptoeing back to the eighteenth century.

Here's the other lesson I've learned. You only see what you want to see and believe what you want to believe. I'm not talking about the Gray Man or Alice Flagg, Pawleys Island's most famous walking dead residents. No, no. This goes back to my eyes and those of my Pawleys friends. I thought we were all lonely and making the best of it, and we were to some degree. But my vision was warped. I was everyone's mother; Huey was my chaste and antiseptic spouse; Rebecca was our daughter. Huey belonged to me, and Rebecca did too. Wrong!

What we all taught each other was stunning and, honest to God, life altering. But here's the thing. I will never accept that these changes could have come about any place but Pawleys Island. Sure, you've heard about the handmade hammocks and the pristine beaches. You've seen gorgeous pictures of the sunsets and the marsh teeming with wildlife. But you don't know Pawleys until you've been there and experienced its tremendous power. It is only a tiny sandbar south of Myrtle Beach and north of Georgetown. But be warned. It is there that the Almighty Himself would like to engage you in conversation and redirect your soul. Listen to me: for all the jokes I make, this time I'm not kidding.

If you're happy in your misery and determined to remain so, don't ever go to Pawleys. If you do make the trip, be on guard. Truth is coming to get you, and peace isn't far behind. But it all comes at a price. You'll have to be the judge of whether it's worth all the hullabaloo.

This is how it happened to me.


Welcome to Gallery Valentine

Ilooked out across the dunes and up and down the beach. Another gorgeous day. Blue skies, billowing clouds and the sun rising with the mercury. Eastern breezes rustled the palmettos and sea oats. Sun worshippers by the score had accepted early invitations to assume the lizard position. They were scattered and prone, armed with coolers, beach chairs, novels, visors and canvas bags of towels, toys and lotions, littered all along the edges of the Atlantic in both directions. They looked like clusters of human solar batteries recharging themselves in drowsy warmth. The waves rolled in low murmers of hypnotic suggestion, washed the shore and pulled away.

The weather that day seemed without guile, but I knew better. As soon as the hands of time crossed noon, Mother Nature would bellow the flames of hell's furnace, blowing unspeakable heat all over the Lowcountry, and the sensible lizards would retreat to shade and hammocks until later in the day. The others would fry, fooled by the breeze and lulled into a comfortable stupor by the ocean's song.

Let me tell you something, honey. You'd never catch me in a swimsuit smelling like cocoa butter and fruit, sticky with salt and sand, half catatonic and dehydrated from exposure. No. I had better things to do with my time, like feeding Huey. Or playing golf in that same sun. It was the lying around part that was a problem for me. Besides, who needed to see me in a bathing suit? I assure you, no one.

But back to my current priority . . . feeding Huey.

After his call, I picked up sandwiches from The Pita Rolz and drove over to his gallery in the Oak Lea Shops. He had been practically breathless on the phone, but private-audience breathless drama was pretty much Huey's modus operandi.

"Abigail! Darling! Drop everything and come! You must meet Rebecca!"

"Who's Rebecca?"

"Our savior! You'll see!"

"Well, we could use a savior . . ."

"And, would you be a dear and bring us some lunch? Just tuna for me, on rye, but only if it looks fresh, and turkey on white bread with mayonnaise for our darling girl, and of course get something for yourself. My treat."

Huey Valentine had not missed a meal in all his fifty-five years. I had to laugh. When Huey got excited, he thought about food. When he was depressed, he thought about food. What can I say except that Huey was well fed. I imagine the least insulting but most accurate term one might use to describe Huey's appearance would be portly, but in a way portly suited his entire demeanor, which, when in the company of close friends, grew a shade larger than life itself.

Huey was the consummate southern gentleman, an aristocratic Nathan Lane, never rude to anyone's face but felt no remorse about a wicked comment to me about others, especially tourists.

You could set your wristwatch by Huey. He was never late for an appointment or a dinner party. He wrote thank-you notes on his Dempsey & Carroll ecru hand-engraved stationery that was so stiff, folding it cracked it like an egg. And he always used an ornate fountain pen, signing with the flourish of John Hancock. Speaking of John Hancock, Huey Flagg Valentine could probably trace his ancestry back to Charlemagne's grandparents. Evergreen, the plantation where he lived with his mother and houseman, had been in his family's name since fifteen minutes after the land was claimed for King Charles II. I had never seen him dressed in anything but all white, summer and winter, and yes, he wore a hat. But not to affect a grand attitude so much as to save his balding head from the terrors of melanoma. Everything about him was stylish and elegant. He couldn't help it. All those generations of social grace and good taste were imbedded in his DNA. I just adored him. Everyone did.

It was on Huey's arm that I had gladly attended every party, concert, dinner or gallery opening for the past three years, since my return to Pawleys Island. Life was so strange. I thought I was going to move into my family's house and write my memoirs, but I was slightly embarrassed to admit that all I had done was exercise and slide in and out of social commitments with Huey. It wasn't the worst thing, really. I mean, heaven forbid that I had a little fun. Besides, the thought of reliving my past through writing it all down? Well, let's just say that I had yet to arrive at the moment where I felt comfortable enough to play with my inner gorillas. They could wait. In any case, I questioned the real value of an autobiography because it seemed like vanity in the extreme. It wasn't like I abandoned a career as a backup singer for the Rolling Stones and that my writings would become the latest zeitgeist on sex, drugs and rock and roll. Frankly, my therapist recommended that I give writing a whirl, saying it might be good for an exercise in closure. Instead, I had closure with everything else-my frantic law practice, my marginal personal life and my nice expensive therapist. I simply closed up my house in Columbia and came back to Pawleys just to think about things. I imagine you could say I'm a lucky woman, at least in terms of inheritance and assets. My mother died when I was very young, and then Daddy finally gave up the ghost after a short bout with leukemia six years ago. Since I am an only child, the house on Pawleys came right into my hands. The old rockers, the creaking floorboards, the tongue-and-groove walls, the ancient kitchen and the claw-footed bathtubs were all mine. The only changes I made were to add a furnace, a fresh coat of paint, window boxes of flowers and new screens. Oh, and I did update the bathroom and kitchen fixtures but that had to be done-you know how salt corrodes everything in its path.

If you looked twice at my house you would scratch your head wondering why I loved it so much. Anyone with a developer's eye would want to knock it down and replace it with a home with central air-conditioning and heat and, probably, God forbid, wall-to-wall carpet, an in-wall vacuum system, doorbells and every other invention of the twentieth century. No thanks. I still preferred floors I could sweep, friends calling out to announce their arrival over the roar of the ocean, and I could not have cared less what mysterious wonders the damp air performed on my hair. Once I crossed over that causeway, leaving the mainland, the plantations and the Waccamaw River, the world ceased to exist. On very hot nights I used the ceiling fan in my bedroom because I loved to hear the waves at night and the birds in the morning. And I loved the memories. If I closed my eyes, I could hear my mother's gentle voice, negotiating with Philemon, the creek man and an island institution during my childhood. He had a bucket of fresh flounder and another one of shrimp, and from them Momma would buy our dinner.

I could see us at the table, Daddy telling Momma how delicious the meal was. Later I would squeeze in between them on the porch swing, while Momma sang sweetly and I drifted off to my dreams. When you lose a parent at a young age, those few memories you have are more precious than any single ring or necklace left to you. Whenever I was here, even alone as I am now, I could stand where they once stood and somehow in the magical workings of the Pawleys Island salt air, I could bring them back to me. For that and for a thousand other reasons too, I would never sell this house or leave it for too long.

Daddy inherited our home on Myrtle Avenue from his father, and his father inherited it from his mother. Our family's Pawleys Island history went back almost as far as Huey's plantation origins. Somewhere around the time Mr. Lincoln freed the slaves, Daddy's father's mother's husband hauled it in sections (we think) to this parcel of land from Butler Island and put it all back together. If you were inclined to inspect the underside of this great relic, you would still find the mortise-and-tenon joints with pegs. When I was a girl, Daddy and his friends would fix cocktails and go under the house to have a look, reappearing later, amazed by nineteenth-century building skills. It was no doubt that her meticulous construction kept Miss Salt Air from flying to Kingdom Come during Hurricane Hugo, our most foul visitor of 1989. Oh, she got her bonnet blown off (lost the roof) and there was water damage to be sure, but Daddy brought a team of men up from Charleston and raised her from the dunes to new and dignified heights on sturdy pilings of brick.

Anyway, it's the island, really, that spins the spell. The house helped, but the most compelling reason for my return here was to languish in great peace as opposed to despair. For all of my life, any time spent here made everything right. I could stand on the porch and breathe in with all of my lungs, exhale my troubles in a whoosh, and the breezes carried them away. My shoulders dropped back to their natural position. I moved differently, slowly but with deliberateness. I slept soundly remembering all my dreams.

That seemed to be the general consensus of everyone on Pawleys Island. It's a simple retreat for some and a spa for the soul to others. One thing is certain: it's unlike any other place in God's entire creation.

Even Huey agreed with that. As much as the Waccamaw waters flowed through his veins, on many evenings I had seen the look on his face when we shared the end of day, watching the moonrise over the Atlantic. You can't paint this, he would say. And he, who possessed the heart and soul of the artist, was right. With that statement, Huey claimed a corner in my heart, which until then had been under lockdown. So, if Huey said, Drop everything and come meet our new savior, I dropped everything and did as he asked. I bought lunch and drove my old Jaguar sedan right over to him, cursing the entire United Kingdom over their wimpy air-conditioning. I pushed open the door and spotted him right away by the framing table in the rear of the gallery. Huey was the Rosetta stone for body language. His hands were in midair, whirling with excitement, and he shifted from one foot to the other. He turned at the unobtrusive musical sound of the automatic doorbell, saw me and rushed to my side. "There you are! Come! Say hello! Let me help you with that!" He took the bag and cardboard tray of iced tea from me, delivered two air kisses to my cheeks, stood back and smiled. "Did they have decent tuna?"

"Huey, baby? The tuna is life altering. I watched them make it, which is what took me so long." The tiny brunette was waiting patiently with her portfolio opened, and what I guessed to be her work was spread all over the counter. "You must be Rebecca." She extended her hand to shake mine. "And you must be Abigail. But please call me Becca. My friends call me Becca."

"No! No! No!" Huey said, researching the contents of the sack of food. "You must be Re-becca! We cannot defile the great name of Rebecca. I'll get plates."

"Didn't anyone ever call you Abby?" she said to me, looking for some support.

"Over their dead body," I said. "My parents named me for Abigail Adams."

Huey placed three plates on the counter and began unpacking lunch. "Abigail Adams was one of America's first feminists, you know. She was always giving John the business about the inequality of education between men and women."

"Oh," Rebecca said.

"Well, it makes sense today too," I said. "People used to think that education was wasted on women because they wound up staying home with children. Of course, I'm not sure how an education could ever be wasted." What an inane thing for me to say, I thought.

"You can say that again," Rebecca said.

"Anyway, this generation of women works. And not necessarily because they want to." Another pearl of genius from me, but people said vapid things to each other just to put the other at ease.

"You can say that again too!" Rebecca said.

I took the plate from Huey and eyeballed this diminutive Rebecca, thinking that if she agreed to agree with every word I spoke, then surely there was an exalted position available for her in our little tribe.

If that sounds egotistical, let's get something straight right now. The last thing I needed in my life or even in the periphery of my life was someone telling me I was wrong, what was wrong with my politics, what was wrong with the world. I knew what was wrong with the world. Everything. I had seen enough of what people did to each other and I just didn't want to deal with it for the foreseeable future.

"So where are you from?" I said.

"Charleston," she said. "I came up here to see if I could sell some of my work."

"Abigail. Look at this."

Huey had closed her portfolio so that a flying crumb of tuna or a splotch of mayonnaise wouldn't ruin anything, but he reached down and pulled up one of her paintings. He flipped back the parchment paper cover and there it was: the classic watercolor of two children, a boy and a girl, playing by the edge of the shore on a beach. I had seen hundreds of them, and all of them were cures for insomnia. But this one was profoundly different. The sky and the water looked as radiantly alive as the sandpipers pecking the wet sand and then running from the waves. But the children, their backs to the viewer, seemed to be a thousand miles away. And you got the sense that while they were probably siblings, that they didn't want to play together or that they were tremendously unhappy for some inexplicable reason and preferred to live in their misery alone. The scene was haunting and bothersome, but I couldn't stop looking at them. I wanted to rush inside the painting and save them. I turned and looked at Rebecca.

"It's very powerful," I said.

"Children aren't always happy, are they?" she said.

"No, they are not."

"Rebecca, darling? We have a show opening tomorrow and I was just thinking . . ."

"Huey!" I said. "Her work isn't framed, and besides . . ."

"Oh! Gosh!" Rebecca said. "I can make frames if you have the material . . ."

"Rebecca? Sweetheart? You make frames?"

"Yes, in fact, I am told that, well, I'm rather good at it. I mean, well, I don't mean to brag . . ."

"Stop! Humility is unflattering, especially for an artist of your talent! You need some attitude, girl! Seriously!"

We all had a giggle at that, but Huey was right. This mouse had to stop squeaking.

"Huey, I . . ."

I was trying to speak, but when Huey got his engine in gear, there was no stopping him. "Sweetheart. You finish up your sandwich, and then I want you to have a look around in the storage room. There's enough material back there to hang a frame around Georgetown County, including the new waterslide at Myrtle Beach."

Huey sniffed and I knew it was because of the waterslides, putt-putt courses and all manner of NASCAR contraptions that had been erected under the guise of entertainment but reeked of crass commercialism. And that, my friends, was the scathing difference between genteel plantation living, the arrogant shabby of Pawleys Island and the wild consumerism of Myrtle Beach. All that said for the antielitist dart throwers in the crowd, Huey the King Snob liked nothing better than a round of putt-putt followed by a snow cone dripping in tutti-frutti syrup.

"The former framer was recently relieved of his duties," I said, thinking I would speak to him when Rebecca was out of earshot.

"I fired the nitwit," Huey said. "What a pathetic simpleton! He drove me crazy. Didn't he ever hear of measure twice, cut once?"

"Apparently not," I said.

Inside of a minute, Rebecca, who was slightly confused as to why she should inspect the inventory of framing materials when she had come to Huey's gallery to sell her work, balled up the remains of her turkey sandwich and went to the storage room to sniff around like a good dog.

"So what do you think?" Huey said in a conspiratorial whisper.

"Huey Flagg Valentine! I think that Sallie Anne Wood will definitely scratch your eyes out! I know I would! You can't promise someone a one-woman show and then just sort of casually have another show going on at the same time! It's unethical!"

The opening, which was the following evening, was a one-woman show for Sallie Anne Wood, an established egomaniacal diva artist from Charleston.

"Listen to me, Abigail Thurmond. Sallie Anne Wood has had a thousand shows. She'll sell enough to make her happy tomorrow night. Right? Look. I cannot resist Rebecca's work! I don't know why, but I sense an urgency in Rebecca and I think she needs us. I mean, you must agree, Rebecca's work is rather astounding."

"It is that."

"God! I wonder what she could do in oil! She'd be biblical! Rebecca at the Well! Great thundering Zeus! I remember that from the show at the Chagall Museum in Nice. Women of the Old Testament! Matriarchs in Search of Motherhood! I wish you had been with me then . . ."

"Me too. Huey? This is still a problem, you know. You cannot possibly expect Sallie Anne to walk in here and be happy to see Rebecca's work hanging in the same gallery on the same night as her opening! And, Huey, I know you would not enjoy the cognizi of Litchfield and Pawleys calling you an opportunist, now would you?"

"I can sell everything Rebecca can paint. Every blessed last piece. And you know it."

"Framed or unframed. But, Huey? Darlin', we hardly know this child! Are you hiring her to be our new framer? She's an artist, for heaven's sake! Don't you think she will be insulted?"

"I'm going to ask her if she'll be the assistant manager of my gallery."

"And who is the manager? You?"

"Okay! I'll make her the manager! Happy?"

"Oh, Huey, Huey, Huey. If you really want this puppy, then I know you'll have this puppy one way or another. Lord help Rebecca! She's falling down the rabbit hole and doesn't even know it."

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Reading Group Guide

Catapulted from her home, her marriage and her children, artist Rebecca Simms has come to Pawleys Island to hide herself from herself. Little does she know that on this “arrogantly shabby” family playground, she’ll encounter three people who will change her life: a wise and irresistible octogenarian who will pry her secrets from her, a gallery owner who caters to interior decorators and heaven save us, tourists, and a retired attorney from Columbia who’s complacent in her fat and sassy life until Rebecca’s stormy advent. With characteristic humor and a full cast of eccentric and wonderfully lovable characters, Dorothea Benton Frank brings us a refreshingly honest and funny novel about friendship, family, and finding happiness by becoming who you are meant to be...


The sands of Sullivan's Island follow me everywhere. No matter where I have traveled, worked or lived, I am only and always a woman whose home place is the beach. Growing up there gave me lots of time to dream - to dream of what my life would become. And writing this book gave me lots of time to remember. One of my happiest summer memories - besides digging holes to China and sliding down the hill fort - is of the Bookmobile. This old clanker of a bus/van would stop in front of my momma's house and I would run for my fortnightly dose of juvenile literature. Three books under my arm, I'd dive into our hammock and finish them all in one day without moving. Then I'd have to wait thirteen days until the Bookmobile returned. Waiting became a theme in my life - waiting for more books, waiting to be old enough to do this or that, for life to give me permission to pursue my dreams, for a million things. I'll probably never develop the virtue of patience, so waiting is my cross. It should be the worst thing I have ever had to bear.

Unlike my sister Lynn, I was a terrible student. Around my twelfth year, I stopped studying in school. I was the classic case of wanting to be cool, the Saving Ophelia Syndrome, rebelling against everything and a whole long list of pathetic excuses. I only reveal this now to let you know that where you start seldom has anything to do with where you land. Life is not like the trajectory of a bullet. I never stopped reading and I never stopped working. Both of these I do with frightening vigor. I managed to graduate from a fashion school on sheer luck and worked on Seventh Avenue for years. I took what skills I had used there into the world of volunteerism for a few more years, raising money for the arts and education.

That vigor is the thirst I could never quench, and the harsh realities of the business world and volunteer fundraising made me understand just how critical a complete education is. But love of words (and my compulsion to be understood) is what made this miracle of becoming a published author come true. So now I'd like to do something for other women who for whatever reason didn't get the educational experience they longed for and who can't find the courage to change their lives. And, needless to say, I'd like to do something for women and children without hope, who don't dream. Please take a moment to visit the Foundation link and share your thoughts.

So what else? I am ecstatically happy with my delicious husband Peter, and adore my two children, Victoria and William down to their last freckles. I have two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Henry and Buster who are as cute as cookies. I play awful tennis, cheat at cards to make my children laugh, speak emergency French and Italian - lots of gesturing, love to cook and entertain. I also garden like mad, still love to visit Sullivan's Island as often as possible, and am always looking for an adventure. I still read like a lunatic - favorite authors are the ones I shamelessly tortured to give me endorsements for my book - John Berendt, Pat Conroy, Bret Lott, Fern Michaels, and Ann Rivers Siddons. I'm always on a diet and admit to being slightly neurotic. If I could have anything in the world, it would be to pick up my entire life and drop it on the beach at Sullivan's Island. Writing is the next best thing.


  • Abigail is a confident, independent, educated woman, but she is also extremely hard on herself at times. What does she want to change about her life?
  • Why do Abigail and Huey decide to help Rebecca?
  • Although the story is mainly told through Abigail’s eyes, some chapters are shown through other points of view. Why might the author have chosen to reveal some of Rebecca’s past, including her abandonment, through Miss Olivia’s perspective? What is revealed about Rebecca’s attitude toward Abigail when we see things from her view, especially in the early chapters?
  • At first Rebecca is less than comfortable with the idea of Abigail taking over her case. What leads to her change of heart?
  • During her preparations for the trial, Abigail feels like she has stepped into the past while Rebecca is clearly moving forward. Is she merely referring to her reprise as a divorce lawyer, or is there more to it than that?
  • Discuss Rebecca’s mild abuse of pharmaceuticals and alcohol. How did this affect your opinion of her, if at all?
  • How do issues of socioeconomic power factor into the characters’ motivations? Do you think things would have turned out differently if Rebecca had been hired at the local dry cleaner’s instead of Huey’s gallery?
  • Shortly after she finds out about Charlene, Rebecca muses that she could have understood Nat’s infidelity if he’d left her for someone beautiful and aristocratic. Is there any validity to that line of reasoning? How does it speak to her self-esteem?
  • On the surface, Abigail and Rebecca appear to be very different, but they share similar insecurities. How do they help each other?
  • Discuss Charlene. Do you think she is a victim of circumstance or a ruthless home wrecker? Perhaps a little of both?
  • What does it take for Abigail to finally forgive herself for her son’s death?
  • The idea of having secrets—and maintaining protective illusions—is a major theme of Pawleys Island. Abigail hides the crippling guilt she feels about her empty marriage and the death of her son, Rebecca retreats to Pawleys Island to escape public scrutiny of her divorce (or so she thought), and Huey’s lover hides his true identity from Miss Olivia. Discuss how each character liberates him/herself.
  • What is Abigail’s philosophy on finding love later in life?
  • The subject of the poem in the beginning of Pawleys Island is the idea that a place can absorb one’s “unbearable secrets.” Do you think this is true? Do you have an equivalent of Pawley’s Island in your life? How can such places be both a sanctuary and a crucible for change?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 51 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2005

    DebbieT from SC

    I agree - Dot has done it again. Once you read one of Dot Franks' books, you will be hooked. I loved this story with it's strong women characters and obstacles they must overcome, as well as the relationships that develop between them. Dot will have you feeling like these are your best friends. Usually I can figure out what's going to happen next - but not so with Dot's books. She surprises me at every turn. I tend to laugh out loud (or cry) when I read something I didn't expect - and believe me - Dot WILL make you laugh. She is a very witty lady who puts a charming southern - low country spell in each of her stories. If you're from the south - you will get it. If you're not - you will wish you were from the south. Surprise's at the end with Pawleys Island as the back drop - this book is perfect.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2005

    Dot Frank does it again!!

    Speaking as a westerner, I totally sunk my teeth into this Lowcountry tale. Every character jumps from the pages as a true Southern experience. From the first page, to the last of Pawleys Island, the wisdom and humor of Dot Frank's written word touches hidden places within your soul. It's a must read, summer or winter!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2005

    This is her best yet!

    Having read all of Dottie Frank's books, I wondered if this one could hold my interest, I couldn't put it down!! I love her witty humorous portrayal of women who deal with their lives and relationships with courage and wisdom(sometimes!). She makes the Lowcountry come alive similarly to the way Pat Conroy makes one long for the Tidewater country. What a great read--can't wait for the next one!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Great Summer Reading

    The story line was refreshing and add to it a touch of humor made this this book book quite entertaining. I will be reading more of the author's books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    A good read!

    I was just introduced to Dorothea Frank, I have finished five of her many titles at this point. I enjoy her style, in reading her works you learn about yourself just a bit more each time.

    Keep up the good work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2005


    Author Dorothea Benton Frank reads her fifth Low Country tale with confident charm, carrying listeners to a small South Carolina island. Those who enjoy low-key stories centering on family and friends with a touch of surprising excitement will find much to relish in this story. Abigail Thurmond and Huey Valentine are an idyllic if unique pair. They're the best of friends, enjoying each other and the lazy-hazy days on Pawleys Island. Abigail, a retired attorney, came to he island from Columbia; Huey has lived there for some time with Miss Olivia, his 80-plus year old mother. Their home is he family plantation, and his business is Gallery Valentine, a shop that caters to decorators and all who enter there. Enter Rebecca Simms, a gifted artist whose works Huey is happy to display. However, Rebecca isn't just visiting the Island, she's running from what has been too painful for her to endure. Leave it to Miss Olivia to find out exactly what that might be. Then leave it to Huey and Abigail to help heir new found friend. An especially pleasing listen. - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

    Great story I loved the authors since of humor.

    Good read, not deep but just a fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    great story

    great stories

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    Makes you want more

    I don't know how I missed this author for so long. Pawleys Island captures the south perfectly. The characters seem real. I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2007

    Southern Comfort

    The charm of the Lowcountry is the heart and soul of this novel and its characters inviting us to live, love, and keep moving on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2006

    A great read! A great place!

    Pawleys Island is one of my favorite places, so ,of course, I loved the book. Ms. Frank spins a great tale--I know the women she writes about, because I am one of them. Getting older can be wonderful if you have the right grace and attitude. Women need more books like this one. I loved Miss Olivia. This book reminds me of another great read, Micah's Child by Lang Buchanan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2006

    She just keeps getting better and better

    This book grabbed me from the beginning. Every character is so real. Her love of the low country, family and friends really comes through. You get pulled into the story and fall in love with the people and the island.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2006

    Can't put down book - great characters - great story

    I ama frequent visitor to Litchfield, neigboring beach to Pawleys. The depictions of the area are perfect and make it all the more real by author's use of real places in the Pawleys area. The story is engaging and leaves me wishing the characters were real and I could be part of their circle. I fell in love with 'Miss Olivia' and hope to be as engaging as I age. You will laugh and if you love justified revenge this story will leave you cheering on the characters and wallowing the in the sweetness of justice found. My first Frank book and am ready to read more of her work. If you love Pawleys and Litchfield Beach, S.C. you will love it all the more. A definite great read for anytime of year! Absolutely loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2005


    My favorite one of her books so far!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    The Recipe for a PerFect Summer

    Every Southern man and woman knows that there's nothing that makes summer more enjoyable than a great new book. Ms. Frank's latest Lowcountry Tale, PAWLEYS ISLAND, fills the bill. It's a great page turner that will keep you in the hammock from the moment you open the first chapter and find yourself meeting folks you'd love to know, if you're lucky enough to live in the area, till the last, when a dinner table surprise knocks the sandals off your tanned feet!--- Don't miss your first opportunity to buy a copy, which will be your ticket to a destination that proves lazy Southern islands are a great setting in which to discover the fact that there's often a slice of life nestled in the warm breeze that shouldn't be overlooked by a reader who enjoys a truly well-written and enjoyable story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2005

    'She has done it Again'

    As like her other books, this is a yet another I didn't want to see end. Frank tells a story like no other!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2005

    Frank Does IT Again!

    All I can say about this book is--WOW! I really enjoyed this one, I finished it in 2 days. It isn't quite as lighthearted as her previous ones, mostly because the subject is so serious--a woman is unjustly declared an unfit mother, but it's still a great book. I loved Huey, Abigail , Rebecca, Miss Olivia and I especially liked the trial scenes which showed quite nicely what a lying, low down SOB Nat was. A great beach or car read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2005

    Perfect Beach Book

    It is the perfect escape novel, and the story holds it own to the last page. I enjoyed it very much.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An engaging tale

    On idyllic PAWLEYS ISLAND, outside of food not much excites fifty-five years old Huey Valentine, but the works of newcomer Rebecca Simms does. He displays her paintings at the show of another artist and sells some of them. Rebecca admits to Huey¿s social companion, retired matrimony attorney widow Abigail Thurmond that her spouse Nat obtained a divorce in which she was proclaimed an unfit mother and has custody of their two children. Huey¿s octogenarian mother goes berserk when she hears this injustice and demands her son and Abigail fix it............... Abigail agrees to represent Rebecca in court although this is her first case since her spouse died a few years ago not long after their son passed away. She begins making inquiries into what happened, the behavior of Huey, and whether the city of Charleston committed a major faux pas as she plans to prove her client is the one fit to raise the kids, not her ex who has custody. Along the way, Abigail regains her lust for life.................. Dorothea Benton Frank¿s latest South Carolina low country character study is an engaging tale that starts at a leisure pace as readers meet the prime players. Towards the middle of the book, the plot changes into a legal thriller in which Nat learns the hard way about women scorned. Though Nat is an extreme loser between pornography, a bimbo, and offering to pay for ¿enhancements¿ for his daughter to have twin edges when she tries out as a Clemson cheerleader, contemporary fans will enjoy this trip to Charleston and Pawleys Island................... Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2005

    Superstar Spring and Summer Delightful Story

    This author is my alltime favorite! Any book she writes is a superior glimpse into the Lowcountry Life. Must read for any southern woman. I will follow Dorothy Benton Frank down any avenue she portrays!

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 51 Customer Reviews

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