Plantation

Plantation

4.2 115
by Dorothea Benton Frank
     
 

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Pat Conroy called Dorothea Benton Frank's debut, Sullivan's Island, "hilarious and wise," while Anne Rivers Siddons declared that it "roars with life." Here, Frank evokes a lush plantation in the heart of modern-day South Carolina-where family ties and hidden truths run as deep and dark as the mighty Edisto River.

Overview

Pat Conroy called Dorothea Benton Frank's debut, Sullivan's Island, "hilarious and wise," while Anne Rivers Siddons declared that it "roars with life." Here, Frank evokes a lush plantation in the heart of modern-day South Carolina-where family ties and hidden truths run as deep and dark as the mighty Edisto River.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Filled with entertaining characters and lots of humor." —The State - Columbia, SC

"Think Terry McMillan meets Rebecca Wells by way of the Deep South and you'll be barking up the right bayou." —The Mirror (UK)

Pat Conroy
Dorothea Frank and I share the exact same literary territory--Sullivan's Island is hilarious and wise....

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425194188
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/02/2004
Series:
Lowcountry Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
196,124
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Prologue: Don't Leave Me Now!

2000

This story I have to tell you has to be true because even I couldn't make up this whopper. And Mother's wake—packed to the rafters with the well-dressed curious and the well-heeled sorrowful—may seem an insensitive place to begin, but here we are and it's all I can think about—that is, the progression of events that led up to this moment. I'm obsessing and entitled to it too. So would you.

Think about this. You know those pivotal moments in your life that you don't see coming? The ones you wished arrived with a timer going off so you'd know this is it! Well, when the phone rang in February, you couldn't have convinced me that six months later, Mother would be in “the box” and I'd be wearing her pearls, twisting them around my finger exactly like she used to do.

Oh, God, here comes Raoul. Excuse me for a moment.

“Mees Caroline, I want to express my deep sympathy to you in thees torrible time of you troubles.”

He took my hands in his. His hands were callused but manicured.

“Thank you, Raoul, thank you for coming,” I said, thinking that he was actually rather handsome. He exuded something, I don't know, some masculine whatever.

“She was very beautiful, your mother, and I will hold her een my heart forever.”

“Thank you,” I said, “I know she was very fond of you.”

” he said, a smile spreading across his face, “ees true.”

He released my hands and walked away, back into the crowd. Mother slept with him? Well, why not?

Where were we? Ah! Pivotal moment! Pivotal moment, indeed. You see, Trip—he's my only brother—called me in New York, in the middle of a cocktail party my husband, Richard, and I were giving, to announce that Mother had flipped her wig and tried to kill him with her daddy's Parker Old Reliable. (That's a shotgun.) He said she was crazy and that he had her power of attorney and was putting her away somewhere where she couldn't hurt anyone.

I knew that was some bodacious bull because my brother was generally accepted as the Second Coming, that is, if Mother's lifelong drooling all over him was an indication of her religious devotion. I guess that sounds like a classic sibling rivalry remark, but you have to know certain things and then you would agree.

First, Trip was the spitting image of Daddy and Daddy was dead—dead and canonized by Mother decades ago. Mother, bereft with her loss, then did a textbook transference of her enormous love for Daddy and heaped it on Trip. Yes, my husband, Richard, is a psychologist and a psychiatrist. We, Richard and I, are...well, we'll get to that.

Second, Trip, dweeb that he is, returned her blind-eyed affection with boundless ingratitude. My brother has always been the archetypal rationalization of why I had declined the possibilities of marriage with southern men. It was their relationships with their mothers that always did me in. That, and the archaic sexism. But of course, with the birth of my own son, I quickly realized, and then denied, that I was wrong about that too.

Poor Trip! Mother would say over and over, sighing with the weight of all the problems of the world.

Well, I didn't completely disagree there. Trip was carrying a cross the size of the Brooklyn Bridge with that tacky, low-rent wife of his. Frances Mae and her horrible children! Dear God! What a disaster she was! Gives new definition to the old ball and chain! We'll dissect Frances Mae later, don't you worry about that for a minute.

So, back to Mother and Trip and their Freudian Oedipus thaing. I wonder how much Mother would have seen of Trip if our plantation didn't have a dock and a landing so Trip could spend half his life on the Edisto River.

Trip was your basic southern good old boy. Lawyer, fisherman, hunter. Clean-shaven, a good dancer, manly, and with flawless manners. He never came to the supper table without a tiny cloud of aftershave in his aura. He always held Mother's chair for her and found a compliment for her as well. Mother was smug in her reign as the matriarch and that she was well in control of her son's attention.

They shared many things in common. Great regard of weekly family dinners, love of land, sense of place, and the importance of a stiff drink or two at the end of the day. Frances Mae was never going to get in the way of Mother's love for Trip. She didn't stand a chance. Sometimes I would think that he had married Frances Mae just to show Mother that she was irreplaceable. That Frances Mae was some kind of a surrogate who could have his body but would never know his heart.

Unfortunately for Mother, as Trip's family grew, his attentions became less frequent and more disingenuous. When he began to drink a lot, Mother began to whip it on the masses. The gardener, Raoul. The UPS man. Mother spread it around, to say the least. She had a ball—no pun intended. I used to think she did these things to make Trip jealous, but later I decided she was just determined to enjoy every minute of her life.

Mother's affairs pretty well horrified Trip and Frances Mae and helped them build their case that Mother had a loose screw. Well, in the amour sense, she was a loose screw—hell, she left a string of bodies behind her too numerous to count. But crazy? Not even for a second. Our mother, Lavinia Boswell Wimbley, finally laid out in lavender (and blue paisley), was as sane as they came. She offered no apologies.

My heart was completely broken. You see, six months ago I was living in New York and I thought I was very happily married. Richard and I had a great apartment on Park Avenue, our son, Eric, was growing up beautifully, I had a small but successful decorating business, and life was pretty darn good. Sure, we had our issues now and then, but there was no pressing reason for complaints.

No, I never dreamed this could happen. I had spent the last fifteen, sixteen years, or maybe more, building a case for living in New York and against anything remotely connected with the ACE Basin of South Carolina and plantation life. It was horrible to me! Boring! The unending repetition of tradition, day after year after generation after generation! Suffocating! The ACE was my demon to reckon with and mine alone. And anyone would have thought that at this stage in my life, I was old and wise enough to take it on. So I came home to see about Mother for a short visit. I wanted to assess things with my own eyes.

My relationship with Mother and with Trip had been strained for years. The geographic distance between us didn't help things either. But I wasn't going to let Trip move Mother out of Tall Pines and into a retirement community without knowing if it was truly necessary. And that Mother wanted to go. I remember thinking, shoot, even though Mother and I had zero in common, she was my mother and I owed her at least that much.

What I found on arrival was exactly what I expected. Mother was playing cards with her girlfriends and talking about men. Millie, Mother's estate manager and friend of a zillion years, was still up to her same old voodoo. Trip was drunk as usual, Frances Mae was pregnant as usual and still turning over the silver looking for hallmarks with her green eyes. And their girls were still full of all the antics of every devil in hell. Everything seemed normal. It was.

I thought it was my mission to open Mother's eyes to Trip's intentions. To make her see that she needed to take it down a notch or two. Surprise, surprise. I was the one, not Mother, who was about to have her eyes opened. It was my cage that would be rattled until the fillings in my teeth vibrated. It was my complete sense of who I thought I was that would be wrung out to dry. Most importantly, I was to discover who we all truly were.

Over the years, as much as I would vehemently deny my passion for the ACE Basin of South Carolina, its pull on me was an all-powerful force. The ACE is Eden. It's where the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers join at St. Helena's Sound. The ACE is home to more species of birds, fish, flowers, and shrubs than you could name. Every inch of it wiggles in song; its beauty is stupefying.

No, once the ACE has you under its spell, you are hers for life. You could turn me around, blindfolded, in the handbag department of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue and I could point my finger to the Edisto River the same way a compass needle always points north. I was nothing more than an extension of her waters. A displaced tributary.

So tonight we were all here in the Bagnal Funeral Home in Walterboro with Mother's body. There must have been three hundred people who came and went over the hours that I sat with Trip, Frances Mae, Millie, and Mother's closest friends.

People told stories of Mother's crazy theme parties that celebrated Cleopatra's birthday or some little-known Aztec holiday. There was the time she dressed herself as a goddess and floated down the Edisto on our pontoon—decorated with billowing white bunting—to celebrate The Birth of Venus. Trip and I were youngsters at the time and humiliated beyond words. I hated her then.

After Daddy died, Trip and I were parceled off to boarding schools; then came the parade of her lovers. She was quiet about her relationships at first, but once she was comfortable with her new way of living, the tempo quickened and the fireworks began. It was then Mother discovered Rod McKuen poetry and found her G-spot in an article in Cosmopolitan magazine. There was no stopping her. Back then I despised her flamboyance with every part of me.

Lately, I had completely changed my mind. If Mother was shockingly indiscreet, so what? Everyone adored her. You had to admit that she enjoyed her liberation. She was Miss Lavinia, the ACE Basin version of Auntie Mame. What a gal!

I looked among the crowd for Rev. Charles Moore and spotted him talking to Richard. At least she'd had the good judgment not to sleep with the minister, even though he probably would have gladly hopped in the sack with her. Endowment campaigns did strange things to people. Well, I thought, maybe she's left him something in her will. God knows, he lobbied hard enough for a bequest.

So many people came for Mother, to offer their love and sympathy. It was remarkable. But even though they were all courtesy and protocol on the outside, I knew there was a strong undercurrent. The unspoken gossip was nearly tangible—the wanting to know, Who would inherit the plantation? What of her renowned fortunes? How much was there? Would Frances Mae be the new queen of Tall Pines? Would I, the errant daughter who'd married that odious Brit, a Jewish man, and a shrink, come to my senses and renounce him? It was a situation I was sure was driving the Lowcountry gentry nearly mad from not knowing.

Situations were what my family called times of indecisiveness and trouble that led to sullied reputations. Situations were best dealt with quickly and as quietly as possible. Between Mother's legendary soirees and love affairs, Frances Mae's greed, and my reappearance on the scene, we had enough jaws working overtime to keep the ears of Charleston, Colleton, and Dorchester Counties burning indefinitely.

All the while I shook hands and thanked people for coming, I fantasized that even there, in the funeral home, money was changing hands. Bets were being placed. Until the rumors became facts, gallons of mint juleps would be consumed all over the Lowcountry. The practiced and polished sweet tongues of prediction would wag! The social wizards would convene and foretell our future from imagined signs, fabricated reports, and supposed hints from someone inside the bosom of the Wimbley family.

Well, it wouldn't be me. I had come home to see about Mother and I had every intention of executing a dignified farewell for her. So did Trip. In Mother's memory, he and Frances Mae were hosting a fabulous reception—with Millie's oversight—to take place when we left the funeral home. They had truly pushed all the buttons they could find to make it something people would remember. And they would.

“Let us pray,” Reverend Moore said.

People became quiet and stood by respectfully. Trip and I had discussed this prayer service with the minister beforehand. All of us were grateful that Reverend Moore had agreed to stick to the standards and not to make a fuss about Mother's character. Her obituary in the Post and Courier had caused us some very unnecessary embarrassment. I suppose that there are some people who read them for entertainment—certainly the journalist who wrote Mother's needed to be reassigned to the Used Automobile pages.

At the same moment we bowed our heads in prayer with Reverend Moore, one hundred tuxedoed waiters from Atlanta were over on Lynnwood Drive, popping corks from cases of Veuve Cliquot and arranging seafood and sushi on a sprawling bed of crushed ice. Silver platters were being filled with delicious finger food and a fifteen-piece band with a horn section was going through a sound check. There would be a tasting bar for Mother's favorite bourbons and many pounds of Sonny's barbecue would be hot and waiting in silver buffet dishes to be dolloped on tiny hamburger buns. In my head I could see the hustle and bustle of preparations. Trip and Frances Mae had absolutely done everything they could to give Miss Lavinia the send-off of the century. For once, I didn't have anything ugly to say about Frances Mae.

Millie and I had planned a more toned-down and traditional reception for tomorrow afternoon, after we spread Mother's ashes. But it too would be lovely. All these plans were spelled out in Miss Lavinia's final wishes. We had done our best to comply.

The prayer service ended and people began milling around again, offering condolences to us. Many of them were misty; Mother's best friends had wept openly, holding on to each other. They broke my heart all over again. I had known them all my life and to see them so upset was just awful.

I got up and walked over to Mother's casket. I was out of tears for the moment. Besides, Mother would have wanted me to keep my wits about me at her wake.

Reconciling finding Mother's heart and then losing her so quickly was going to be my ultimate challenge. I prayed she would haunt me forever. Just because she was dead, she had no right to desert me.

I looked down at her in her casket and thought about how peaceful she looked. I was going to need her grit and wisdom to survive, every ounce of it. I wasn't even one-

third the woman she was in her weakest moment. I had been a coward for far too long, hiding my emotions behind my Manhattan wardrobe of all black. I brushed back a lock of her hair, thinking how I loved her so desperately and how many years I had wasted mired in anger and resentment. Trip appeared at my side.

“You okay, Caroline?” His eyes were moist.

“Yeah, I'm fine. Lavinia would have loved this, don't you think?”

“Definitely,” he said. “She got enough flowers for a senator!”

It was true. The room overflowed with baskets of gorgeous arrangements. Trip and I had ordered two enormous sprays and a blanket of roses for her. The fragrance of the room was head-spinning. Trip looked shaken, so I gave the old boy a hug, and I could almost see Miss Lavinia smiling. He returned the embrace with an honesty I hadn't felt from him since we were children. I guessed he needed me.

Mother may have slipped through my fingers, but not without leaving a sweet residue. She had given me back my love of life, complete with permission and directions on how to live it. I had wasted no time in starting. Across the room, two of my most recent diversions were chatting away like old fraternity brothers. It gave me the giggles because Josh, the old Kama Sutra scholar with dreadlocks down to his waist—the one who could make you twitch in places you didn't even know had nerve endings—stood out in complete contrast to Jack, my doctor friend in the cashmere sport coat. Jack had the most beautiful hands I had ever seen on a man.

Then, over there, was Matthew...oh dear, in spite of these grave circumstances, I had to admit that my recent liaisons had more than a passing resemblance to Mother's.

I moved through the crowd to the windows and spotted my son, Eric, outside happily playing kick the pinecone with an energetic gang of children. He had never been so happy as he has been here, smack in the middle of the most turmoil I'd ever endured. He was free of stress and filled with alpha energy, truly happy just to be alive and a kid. It was obvious that the ACE was the medicine he needed.

Maybe it was what I needed too. For all those years I told myself there was no life for me here. That I was a city slicker and didn't need them. That I was streetwise. That I had my own family now and I'd evolved to a woman of few emotional needs.

Sure. When Mother came along, needing me for the first time, that theory exploded with all the insignificant fanfare of the careless dropping of a thin-shelled egg.

Humph, I thought, looking around; for the first time in my life, I had more men in the room than old Miss Lavinia. It seemed that I had a little situation of my own. Never be like her? I raised my hand to my throat, twisted her South Sea pearls around my finger, and let loose the longest sigh in respiratory history. Sonuvadamndog, it was in the DNA.

—Reprinted from Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Dorothea Benton Frank. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

What People are saying about this

John Berendt
Southern womanhood has found a new voice, and it is outrageous, hilarious, relentless and impossible to ignore.
Pat Conroy
Dorothea Frank and I share the same literary territory.
From the Publisher
"Filled with entertaining characters and lots of humor." —The State - Columbia, SC

"Think Terry McMillan meets Rebecca Wells by way of the Deep South and you'll be barking up the right bayou." —The Mirror (UK)

Meet the Author

Dorothea Benton Frank is from Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. The New York Times bestselling author of Sullivan’s Island, Plantation, Isle of Palms, and Shem Creek divides her time between the New York area and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New Jersey and Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Place of Birth:
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Website:
http://www.dotfrank.com

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Plantation 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 115 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read Dorothea Benton Frank 3years ago on a trip to america and I have read every book she has writtten to date so far ,but this is my favourite . She is the only author I buy the hard book edition as I can't wait for the next book.
MariaKathleen More than 1 year ago
Do yourself a favor and read this book. PLANTATION was my introduction to Dorothea Benton Frank's prodigious talent. I paced my reading toward the end of the book because it was about to end. But help was to be found at Barnes & Noble as I found the companion books listed (and quickly added them to my Wish List). I was completely invested with each character's life as I read PLANTATION. Ms. Frank drew me in and her writing held me to the end.
azdlm More than 1 year ago
Dorothea Benton Frank is one of my favorite authors. This is one of her most touching works. The characters are well developed and animated. The story line is moving, funny, and colorful. If you have not read Dorothea Benton Frank, this is a wonderful example of her style and wit. I look forward to each new work, just wish she could write faster.
BlueLotus More than 1 year ago
After reading Folly Beach, I couldn't wait to get my hands on another one of Dorothea Benton Franks' books. I then read Sullivan's Island. Now I am hooked on her writings. Once I start one, I just don't want to put it down until I am finished. Reading her books fills many lonely hours for me. They are like going back home. I am not from the low country, but Greenville, SC. I am about to get Plantation and can't wait!
ErikaDW More than 1 year ago
I was given this book by my grandma (oddly enough). After reading the description, I was skeptical. It didn't seem overly interesting, but I was bored and needed something to read. So, I dove right in. I was pleasantly surprised! This book was hilarious! The character development was very good and the plot was great. I have since read several of Ms. Frank's other novels and she is a fantastic writer. Her books are witty, funny, emotional, and relevant. I highly recommend this author to everyone.
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
I liked this one. It was a touching, emotional story that you will enjoy! It is the story of Caroline who never wanted to live on the plantation at home again with her family. She fights it the whole way but ends up coming back. Her mother is funny, eccentric and after many events, Caroline moves back to the plantation. It is a great story that is totally relate able. I want to visit Tall Pines badly after reading about this place! I actually laughed out loud and cried. It is a great story with great characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fiddle dee dee! I haven't laughed this hard in a long time!! I really think you have to be a Southerner to truly appreciate all this book has to offer 'phrases, etc.'. I have been gone from the South for over 35 years, but I truly did laugh until I cried. I saw lots of my dysfunctional family in this novel. This is the first book I've read by this author, but I'll definitely be reading more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the way this woman writes. She keeps you moving and wanting more. Even her chapter titles were fun! I feel more like I have just seen a great movie when I read her novels. All I want to know is when is her next one coming out?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a book with characters so fully developed since Pat Conroy's Beach Music. I enjoyed them so much I gave Plantation and Sullivan's Island as Christmas gifts to 2 of my friends! Please, Dorthea, give us another soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was reared in the SC Lowcountry and found that Dorothea Benton Frank's exciting tales of life in the South transported me back to the delicious feeling of "going home to Mama" and all the wonderful things that can happen when we're lucky enough to have this happen. She portrays her characters and scenes like no author I've read...And I love every moment when I'm holding one of her books. When will we be able to read another?! Hurry!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
if anyone is contemplating getting this book, i insist you go ahead and get it and read it-- you'll love it. anyone who has grown up in the south can relate to at least certain parts. i wish there were more books out there like this one and by this author!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was on my way to catch a train and I needed a book to occupy myself for the 6hour trip I was not looking forward to. I grabbed the first book I could find. Even after I got to my destination I couldn't let go. I gave the book to a friend whose's mother/daughter relationship was similar. She cried and cried and LAUGHED....... I had never heard off this author before, but i can't wait to start another one off her books. Keep them coming.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was very heart-warming, funny, and sad....The mother-daughter relationship although intense at times, made me think a great deal about my own relationship with my Mom....I am looking foward to her next novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
5 stars is not enough for this book.I enjoyed it so much, it brougt laughter and tears. One of the best, if not the best book I've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by Ms. Frank and I can hardly wait to read 'Sullivan's Island'. This book was refreshing, upbeat, and contemporary while at the same time striking a note of familiarity with the occurances of the main characters. If I could rate it more than 5 stars I definitely would give it a 10!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If Plantation, is as nice as Sullivan's Island, it will be worth reading. It was very refreshing to read a book that gives someone not from the low country a real idea of what is like there. I am really looking forward to it!
mlhflyer More than 1 year ago
I like books that have to do with the low country of South Carolina. This one was funny and very touching at the end. Would highly recommend this book! Plan to read a few more of her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dorothea Benton Frank is one of my favorite authors. I want to read all of her books, and I'm nearly there! Will be sorry to not have any more to read. Hopefully she will continue to write these great low country books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book-it was very realistic and so humorous! There were things in this book that everyone can relate to when it comes to thier family. I will definately read more of this writers books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The characters really come to life!
MEMECN More than 1 year ago
these books would mkkae great christmas presents. Love the author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written story of support and love not only of family members but of those around them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful immersion into a facet of Lowcountry culture, lifestyle and personalities. Certain passages were so poignant they made my heart pang.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her books always make me want to go to the "low country". Dorothea Benton Franks books are very captivating. I always enjoy reading them and have a hard time putting them down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my all time favorita Dorothea Benton Frank book. So much so I have it in paperback and now on my Nook Color. It's all about a quirky southern family in SC, but a very real and believable family.