Return to Sullivan's Island

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Overview

Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the enchanted landscape of South Carolina's Lowcountry made famous in her beloved New York Times bestseller Sullivans Island to tell the story of the next generation of Hamiltons and Hayes.
Return to Sullivans Island

Whether you were away from the Lowcountry for a week or for years, it was impossible to remember how gorgeous it was. It never changed and everyone depended on ...

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Overview

Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the enchanted landscape of South Carolina's Lowcountry made famous in her beloved New York Times bestseller Sullivans Island to tell the story of the next generation of Hamiltons and Hayes.
Return to Sullivans Island

Whether you were away from the Lowcountry for a week or for years, it was impossible to remember how gorgeous it was. It never changed and everyone depended on that.

Newly graduated from college and an aspiring writer, Beth Hayes craves independence and has a world to conquer. But her notions of travel, graduate study, and writing the great American novel will have to be postponed. With her mother, Susan, leaving to fulfill her own dreams in Paris and her Aunt Maggie, Uncle Grant, and stepfather, Simon, moving to California, Beth is elected by her elders to house-sit the Island Gamble. Surrounded by the shimmering blue waters of the Atlantic, the white clapboards, silver tin roof, and confessional porch have seen and heard the stories of generations of Hamiltons. But will the ghosts of the Island Gamble be watching over Beth?

Buoyed by sentimental memories of growing up on this tiny sandbar that seems to be untouched by time, Beth vows to give herself over to the Lowcountry force and discover the wisdom it holds. She will rest, rejuvenate, and then reenter the outside world. Just as she vows she will never give into the delusional world of white picket fences, minivans, and eternal love, she meets Max Mitchell. And all her convictions and plans begin to unravel with lightning speed.

There is so much about life and her family's past that she does not know. Her ignorance and naiveté nearly cost her both her inheritance and her family's respect. But Beth finds unexpected friends to help her through the disaster she faces: her wise and charming Aunt Sophie; Cecily Singleton, the granddaughter of Livvie Singleton; and Woody Morrison, the solid young investment banker.

This wonderful ensemble of characters could be your own family, but watch what unfolds as they succumb to the island's spell. If everything happens for a reason, then Beth's return to Sullivans Island teaches her that betrayal and tragedy are most easily handled when you surround yourself with loyal family and friends in a magical place that loves you so much that it wants to claim you as its own.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Frank (Sullivan's Island) creates a world in which aspiring writer Beth Hayes, whose chirpy internal monologues and quiet uncertainties make her easily endearing, is as much a character as the house she lives in. After graduating from college in Boston, Beth returns to the South to spend a year house-sitting her family's home, Island Gamble, while her mother, Susan, visits Paris. Frank's portrayal of a large and complicated family is humorous and precise: there's Susan, adoring and kind; Aunt Maggie, a stickler for manners; twin aunts Sophie and Allison, who run an exercise-and-vitamin empire; and uncles Timmy and Henry, the latter of whom has ties to Beth's trust fund. Frank's lovable characters occasionally stymie her pace; there's almost no room left for Beth's friends or her love affairs with sleazy Max Mitchell and cherubic Woody Morrison, though these become important later on. Frank is frequently funny, and she weaves in a dark undercurrent that incites some surprising late-book developments. Tight storytelling, winsomely oddball characters and touches of Southern magic make this a winner. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440727290
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 7/9/2009

Meet the Author

Dorothea Benton Frank

Bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She and her husband divide their time between South Carolina and New Jersey.

Biography

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 96 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(34)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 96 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    warm family drama

    Having just graduated from college in Boston, wannabe writer Beth Hayes returns to her family home on Sullivan Island, South Carolina while her mother spends time in Paris; mom had asked her daughter to house-sit while she is in France. Beth looks forward to the quiet time at her family home Island Gamble to contemplate her future and hopefully begin her writing career though she lacks confidence in her skills.
    ---
    She also looks forward to seeing the extended family, the successful twins Sophie and Allison, Susan, and Uncle Henry; she also plans to hug her Miss Manners-reincarnation Aunt Maggie, her Uncle Timmy and her stepfather Simon before the trio travel to California. Beth soon enjoys her trysts with total opposites Max Mitchell and Woody Morrison, but that will darken her RETURN TO SULLIVAN ISLAND.
    ---
    Dorothea Benton Frank returns to the Lowcountry with a warm family drama that is filled with humor, compassion, and sadness. The extended cast is solid, but this is clearly Beth's tale as she struggles with a lack of confidence when faced several times with difficult choices. Readers who appreciate deep complicated relationships will enjoy the RETURN TO SULLIVAN ISLAND.
    ---
    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2009

    This was simply NOT Dorothea's best work.

    I am usually an avid fan of Dorotheas, but the main character was simply not believable. She was just too silly for my notion. I love anything about the S. Carolina coast so I read all of the book, but I was surely disappointed.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    What happened?

    I have read all of Dorothea Benton Frank's novels and eagerly looked forward to this new one.

    As with her other novels Frank's focuses on life in the low country and this novel is no different in that respect. The overall theme is an aspiring writer, Beth Hayes, returns to Sullivan's Island to housesit for a year while her mother is off to France and her aunt is somewhere else.

    What unfolds next sounds like something from a Nancy Drew novel with ghosts creaking in the night and upsetting bed linen and a sophomoric crush on a bad boy while ignoring the good boy. I thought I had left high school behind. Frank's books have always had such rich characters and they always left you wishing to be in her books, but not this time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    A Very Disappointing Read

    A very disappointing read from an author who usually writes excellent novels. No empathy developed for the main character, who acted less responsibly than I would have expected from a high schooler. In fact, I was so impatient with the novel that I kept putting it down and reading other books - surprised I finished it.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2009

    Disappointing

    I cannot recommend this book. Do read Sullivan's Island. I would also recommend Bulls Island, Isle of Palms, and Shem Creek.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Forgot about it . . .

    This was the worst book I read from Ms. Frank and I read all of her books. I don't think I will be waiting for her next one. I was so bored that I had to skip a page or two to get through it. Perhaps this was written for the new generation in their 20's. Good luck selling books to them.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 31, 2009

    I Know it's Bad When I Start Skipping Pages.

    Having just finished Sullivan's Island I was thrilled to see Return to Sullivan's Island available and ordered it right away. I had been asking all of my friends and family to read the original as I enjoyed it so much. I can't say how disappointed I was about 100 pages into Return. It was so sophomoric and predictable I could barely finish it and was continuously skipping pages just to get to the end. Don't even bother with this one unless you are a vapid 23 year old.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Entertaining, even if not her best

    As I sit here on the Isle of Palms (the sister island to Sullivans) getting ready to head back reluctantly to Manhattan, I felt like re-reading a couple of my reviews and others, and realized I hadn't commented on Return to Sullivans Island. Like most of those who've posted here, I don't think this is Ms. Frank's best work, but it is an entertaining read if you're already familiar with the Hamiltons and, of course, the leading lady in all of Ms. Frank's novels - the Lowcountry herself. Catching up with Susan Hamilton Hayes Rifkin and her daughter Beth Hayes, plus their extended family and those dear departed loved ones in the mirror, is well worth an afternoon or two. Still, I'm not sure Ms. Frank's voice resonates quite so authentically through a twenty-one-year-old heroine just out of college as it has from more grown-up protagonists in their thirties and beyond. Also, this book is written in third person, whereas her others are all (if I'm not mistaken) in first person, sometimes with the literary device of switching from one character as narrator to another. So Beth's story isn't as immediate - you feel more like an older sister, aunt, mom or grandmother looking over her shoulder and knowing she is going to make some bad decisions before everything works out all right in the end. Perhaps that's intentional on Ms. Frank's part - if so, it works. I do wish, as a general comment on all her novels, that Ms. Frank would not have her characters consistently use bad grammar - something most well-brought-up Southerners occasionally do in fun, but certainly not all the time. And I must say that I've never heard any of the men in my circle of friends and family call another guy 'bubba' (which Ms. Frank constantly employs as a synonym for 'man' or 'dude'). As I've mentioned elsewhere, I think this is something Ms. Frank's Yankee editors encourage to make us Southerners more palatable to a wider population that wants to believe we are all - the doctors, lawyers and investment bankers in this book included - moonshine-swilling rednecks. The story has many charming elements - the Hamilton siblings are warm and funny, and remind me of my own mother's large family - and Beth, whatever her errors in judgment, is a sweet and likeable girl. The explanation for her infatuation with Max, though - presumably sufficient to explain her committing fraud with her trust fund - rings a little hollow and perhaps comes too late in the plot (there's nary a hint earlier). But Woody is a great guy, and I very much hope that Ms. Frank will return to tell their story. 'Wedding on Sullivans Island,' anyone? Let's hope we are all invited!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2010

    Disappointing to say the least

    I have read all of Ms. Frank's books-loved the original Sullivan's Island and Plantation. This book was insipid-from the irritating jargon from the daughter to the easily guessed-plot. I felt ripped off- like she threw together a book to make a few more million from the people who were eagerly awaiting a real book. I hope she has not done the same thing to Plantation-I think I'll check out her books from the library from now on.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    not so great

    I usually love her books. This one fell way short, the characters were just not real enough and the house ghosts too silly. If this was the first book of hers I read, I probably would not read her again. But I know her previous books were more plausible, more enjoyable, better character development and great summer reads.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Return to Sullivans Island

    It was slow to start. I couldn't get into the ghost thing. It seemed
    written for someone much younger than me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    You can't go home again

    I found this book to be a complete waste of reading time. The characters were not close to being real, and by the 2nd chapter you want to kill them. Also, anyone who lives in the low country knows everyone has air condioning in their homes....it's too hot and humid even in the evenings with an ocean breeze. The plot itself was far fetched, and the twin aunts was pulled out of the air. I was very disapointed in her book, and I don't think I will purchase another.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2009

    Another good read from Dorothea Benton Frank!

    For anyone who enjoyed her previous book, "Sullivans Island", this book is a chance to get reacquainted with some of those wonderful characters and to meet some interesting new ones. I enjoyed Ms. Frank's descriptions of beautiful Sullivans Island and the low country, and I always enjoy her wit. Great summer read!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Look forward to reading more from this author!

    This was my first read by Dorothea Benton Frank and enjoyed it. It took me a while to get into it; and listened to the audio and Robin Miles did an outstanding job with the narration. As a native of NC, and spent most of my adult life in Atlanta (been in Florida for years), and having worked in Charleston, SC area--love the southeast and the mentions of the places I have visited in the Lowcountry area. I enjoyed the humor of the southern women and Beth a young college grad who returns to SC to housesit for her mother and family. My favorite character was Cecilia as though she could be your best BFF! Some history, fun, ghost, Ponzi schemes, romance, and learning to trust. I look forward to reading more from Dorothea!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    The original book, Sullivan's Island, was better.

    Although Return to Sullivan's was a good book, the original was much, much better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    Very disappointing book from a great author

    I love most of her books but this one feels like it was scratched together from old cliched srories. Poor

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    Predictable

    I had the entire plot figured out in thirty pages or less.

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  • Posted July 2, 2012

    Highly Recommended - check out both this and the original Sullivan's Island

    This book and the first book, Sullivan's Island, are wonderful books about growing up and finding yourself in a family house full of mystery and ghosts. I loved every minute of reading these books. This book took up where Sullivan's Island left off with Beth being coerced into staying at the "family home" on the Island while her mother and aunt went off to do their things. Beth's friendship with Cecily, Livvie's granddaughter, was reminiscent of Susan's and Livvie's relationship, although Cecily was not a maid. She was a caretaker for the old home, but she and Beth become close friends. The mirror still showed ghosts and the other house ghosts tried to keep things straight and narrow, even though Beth was struggling to be her own person.

    I would highly recommend this for a light reading experience, but be sure to read Sullivan's Island first. These are books I will remember and treasure.

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  • Posted June 25, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    1st book I read of Dorothea's & do plan on buying others. While reading the book, I was wishing I could visit Sullivan's Island and stay in a home as described. (But with a/c of course.)

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  • Posted December 21, 2010

    Disappointed...

    I always look for new books from this author. This book was a big disappointment. The writing is sketchy, the characters shallow, the dialog trite. I'm very sorry she has fallen to this low level. It reads as if she lost interest and was counting on her former books to sell this one. It worked: however I won't be hoodwinked again.

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