The Land of Mango Sunsets

The Land of Mango Sunsets

by Dorothea Benton Frank


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061715709
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/19/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 110,821
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

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


New Jersey and Sullivan's Island, South Carolina

Place of Birth:

Sullivan's Island, South Carolina

Read an Excerpt

The Land of Mango Sunsets

A Novel
By Dorothea Benton Frank

William Morrow

Copyright © 2007 Dorothea Benton Frank
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-089238-8

Chapter One

Manhattan-Some Time Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hush," whispered someone in front of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Reading Group Guide


ABOUT: Dorothea Benton Frank is one of America's most insightful writers, weaving highly addictive tales of the conundrums of life with hilarity and heat. In The Land of Mango Sunsets, she tells the story of one woman's journey to happiness in a tale about appearances, pride, friendship, family, and love. Her message is simple: a truly joyous life comes with a generous heart.

Miriam Elizabeth Swanson knows a great deal about penning the perfect thank you note, but little about acceptance and self-satisfaction. Divorced by a two-timing horse's ass of a husband who dropped her for a younger number, she's buoyed by a fabulous cast who run the gamut from insufferable to wonderful. There are the tenants who share her townhouse to make ends meet: Kevin, her stalwart companion with more style than Cary Grant, and Liz Harper, a young woman who is about to set Miriam's life in an unexpected cycle of motion. There is Harry, her African gray parrot who has plenty of opinions—and shares them all. There are her estranged sons, one a computer geek in California, and the other who announces he's marrying a Jamaican woman. There is her iconoclastic mother, Miss Josie, with her chickens and her pet goat Cecilia. And there is a man named Harrison Ford (not the movie star) who changes Miriam into a gal named Mellie.

Miriam spins out from the revolving door of her postured life as a Manhattan quasi-socialite, thirsting—or rather starving—for recognition and respect. How did her life become a shadow of what she thought it would be? How did she become so distant from her beloved sons? How did she become what she hates the most, and what does she endure to realize it?

It takes a few spins, dips, and one spectacular fall—and a return to the enchanted land of Sullivans Island, deep in the Lowcountry of South Carolina—until Miriam gets her head on straight .

Questions for Discussion

QUESTION: 1. At the beginning of the novel, Miriam is desperate to be accepted among the society set and their opinions mean a great deal to her. Does she care too much about other people's judgments? How has this affected her life?

2. When Miriam needs solace she returns to Sullivans Island—the "land of mango sunsets". What does the place do for her? Do you have a healing retreat? What kind of a special place would you like to have if you don't?

3. The novel's heroine transforms herself from "Miriam Elizabeth Swanson" to "Mellie." How do these two personalities compare and contrast with one another? What do you like about them? Do you see yourself in either?

4. Weather and nature are an important backdrop in the novel. How do they reflect Miriam's transformation?

5. What is the relationship like between Miriam and her mother, Miss Josie? How are the women alike—and how are the different? How do parents impact their children's lives?

6. Friendship and family are the cornerstones of The Land of Mango Sunsets. What makes a good friend? What makes people "family"?

7. When Liz's relationship turns violent and she is terribly hurt, Miriam blames herself. Why does she feel responsible? Was she to blame?

8. Miriam did not know her mother was ill until very late. Why do you think Miss Josie and Harrison didn't tell her?

9. In the prologue, Miriam says "Recognizing yourself in my mistakes won't be pretty, but perhaps it will keep both of us from making the same mistakes again." Can we learn from others' mistakes or do we have to make our own to truly learn life's lessons?

10. Miriam also says "Things happen for a reason." Do you agree?

11. What role Miriam's fling with "Manny the Man" play in the novel? Though it didn't end quite how she expected, was it ultimately good for her?

Customer Reviews

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Land of Mango Sunsets 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again, Dot Frank has written a can't put donw page turner. 'The Land of Mango Sunsets' will have you laughing and crying. It is full of Dot's humor and quick wit. A definite must read!!!
NancyChase More than 1 year ago
Dorothea Frank has created another wonderful story and I just thought Land of Mango Sunsets was just a great read. The characters are clever and appealing especially Miriam Swanson. Actually, I felt that she gave all the variety of splendid characters real feelings that I could relate too. This is a great book to take to the beach and read. It's an easy read and with the wonderful descriptive scenes of South Carolina, that Ms. Frank portrays you feel like you are roaming around in the beautiful state. I hope I haven't given away too much of the story for those who haven't read it. In summary, it's a delightful and refreshing story with humor, romance, a bit of mystery, and some valid issues concerning our environment. Grab it and enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Last year I was introduced to Dorthea Benton Frank's books at a local bookstore in Beaufort, South Carolina. I was hooked and read all of her books and fell in love with the characters and their stories. Each novel is truly magical and once you start reading one you can't put it down. I met an author at a book-signing in Kansas City. She was from Oklahoma. I proceeded to tell her about Dorthea and she was buying her books before the end of the day. How blessed we are to have Doorthea's books! Please don't stop giving them to us. A hooked fan in the Midwest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Frank but it won't be my last. I'm now a new fan! This was so entertaining and perfect for the summer. The characters were a riot and all had lessons to learn on the importance of family and friends. The story was funny and touching at the same time.
Pinkribbongal More than 1 year ago
I so thoroughly enjoyed this book and having just stayed in the area for a week, all the more meaningful. Pinkribbongal
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am new to the stories of Dorothea Benton Frank but have become an instant fan. Her writing style is wonderful to read and her characters are not to be missed. This book is full of heart, laughs and lessons learned about oneself. The humor that is so well written will have some phrases staying with you as part of your own vocabulary now. Too many things stay in the vocabulary of one character you will come to love, named Harry. The heart that is given in telling what could truly be called a 'coming of age' story for adults of any age, will just make you sigh and ready to read another Dorothea book, maybe on Sullivans Island watching a beautiful Mango Sunset. Don't miss this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just had the best reading time this book. It's chock full of giggles, antiques, food, zany characters, awesome locations, and transformation. Buy it because you will love this book.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Meet Miriam Elizabeth Swanson who describes herself thusly in New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank's tale 'The Land of Mango Sunsets': 'I am older now and it doesn't matter anymore if someone thinks I am a fool. It makes me laugh because I have been a fool so often that if you could stack the occasions one upon another, they would reach the top of the sky and then spiral away into their own orbit..' That's a pretty accurate self-evaluation as Miriam has made mistakes, some inconsequential, others harmful and, sadly, a few damaging. She's describing herself as she sits on the porch of her family home on Sullivan's Island in the Low country of South Carolina. Miriam has retreated here in the hope of finding perspective and healing. Her husband of two decades has dropped her for a much younger and prettier woman, her two sons offer no consolation - one avoids her and the other has all he can do to care for himself. Once part of a social set she has been dropped by all of her friends as soundly as her husband dropped her. Enough woe? Not at all. Miriam's museum boss is a former friend who treats her with barely concealed disdain, and she has had to turn her Manhattan townhouse into apartments because she needs the money (what happened to a good lawyer?) And, she finds that one of her tenants has become a victim. However, when Miriam returns to Sullivan's Island she finds new opportunities in the very attractive form of retired banker, Harrison Ford (no relation to the actor). Now, if you're wondering about the title, it refers to the big red orange ball the sun became at sunset on Sullivan's Island, as well as the sliced mangoes Miriam's parents enjoyed at breakfast. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again Frank has created a character driven book that includes friends, family members, and some not so wonderful people. The main character is still the lowcountry area around Charleston, South Carolina. We all are mothers, daughters of mothers, or need mothering from time to time in our lives. In MANGO SUNSETS, Frank has given us examples of the best and the worst or mothering advice and comfort. Her writing makes you feel like a summer evening where you are sitting on the front porch watching the sun going down and sharing 'What did you do today?'. The colors of the sunset are beautiful, and peace comes from knowing that the one you are with really cares who you are and what is happening in your life. The 'mango' is the spice that makes this book many steps about others similar reads. Keep them coming Dorothea!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not wait for this novel's release and bought it from B&N the day it was issued. Moving to the north from South Carolina, I absolutely love to read Dorthea's depictions of the beautiful South Carolina low country for 'escape.' It is truly as she describes in her charater's eyes when they leave the north to travel to SC, and exactly the way I feel when I travel back home! Her characters and story lines are also outstanding. I was, however, a little dissapointed with the depth of character development in Mango Sunsets, in comparison to 'for example' Plantation and Sullivan's Island. I thought the ending was rather rushed, and I did relate well with the mother-daughter relationship, especially at the end. In any event, I could not put this one down, as with all of Dorthea's books. I am a big DBF fan and I am already awaiting her next book for another Low country escape!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Living in New York, Miriam Swanson finds her life nuked since her husband ran off with ¿his whore'. Her friends have abandoned the middle aged woman as if she was the one cheating on her spouse making it more difficult to adjust is her boss Agnes Willis who is one of those bosom buddies who give Miriam the cold shoulder. Worse she caught Agnes¿ husband Truman in a seemingly compromising position with her tenant Liz. Her two adult sons are polite, but avoid her like she has the plague. It seems the only folks who talk to her are her parrot and her tenants with each squawking at her. --- Miriam decides to escape the city by visiting her socialite mother Miss Josie on the South Carolina barrier island Sullivan. She is stunned when mom no longer cares about fashion as the older female has gone bohemian. Miss Josie introduces Miriam to Harrison Ford (the banker that is), but though attracted to him, she fears he is Miss Josie¿s fling. So she returns to New York where she reveals Truman¿s indiscretion leading to his girlfriend¿s beating. Feeling guilty, Miriam takes Liz to Sullivan's Island to recover but the trip is more healing to Miriam who begins to reach out to those who care about her. --- THE LAND OF MANGO SUNSETS is an interesting character study starring a lonely woman who finally understands she must reach out if she wants people to reach back. The story line is driven solely by Miriam with the secondary ensemble mostly relating to her even when for instance Truman is married to Agnes and having an affair with Liz. Though the ending seems very abrupt and improbable as time may heal all wounds, but the key is it takes time. Still fans of Dorothea Benton Frank's South Carolina tales will enjoy the return to SULLIVAN¿S ISLAND. --- Harriet Klausner
BarbsReviews on LibraryThing 3 days ago
The book was slow at first for me and started picking up around chapter 5 and thought it was great the way we got to see more of the real Mariam and her life along with Liz, Kevin, Harrison and of course dear Miss Josey. A warm story that really makes you think.
NancyChase on LibraryThing 3 days ago
A delightful and refreshing story! Dorothea Frank has created another wonderful story and I just thought Land of Mango Sunsets was just a great read. The characters are clever and appealing especially Miriam Swanson. Actually, I felt that she gave all the variety of splendid characters real feelings that I could relate too. This is a great book to take to the beach and read. It's an easy read and with the wonderful descriptive scenes of South Carolina, that Ms. Frank portrays you feel like you are roaming around in the beautiful state. I hope I haven't given away too much of the story for those who haven't read it. In summary, it's a delightful and refreshing story with humor, romance, a bit of mystery, and some valid issues concerning our environment. Grab it and enjoy.
LivelyLady on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Another seductive low country tale about Mellie, a native coastal woman who lives her life in NY. Returning home to the low country she finds her way back to repairing her fractured family as she finds herself. Again, I want to be the main character.
punxsygal on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Miriam Elizabeth Swanson, divorced, see her organized life as a quasi-socialite spiral downward. With the help of new friends and her parrot, Harry, her life turns in an unexpected, and joyful direction. And as with many of Frank's books, that direction leads to Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. Maybe I should go there and see if it would work its magic on me. ;-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Could not put it down!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well I past it before... as a kit. I was carried a cross by a cat because my friend Black Tail thought it would be fun to go to the other side.
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MariaKathleen More than 1 year ago
It was a joy to follow along as Mellie reclaimed her soul. Another peek into a life with a less-than-perfect history. Dorothea Frank handles this well. Thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago