Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Return to Sullivans Island

Return to Sullivans Island

3.5 104
by Dorothea Benton Frank, Robin Miles (Read by)

See All Formats & Editions

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.

Newly graduated from college, aspiring writer Beth Hayes is elected by her family to house-sit the Island Gamble. Buoyed by


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.

Newly graduated from college, aspiring writer Beth Hayes is elected by her family to house-sit the Island Gamble. Buoyed by sentimental memories of growing up on this tiny sandbar seemingly untouched by time, Beth vows to give herself over to the Lowcountry force and discover the wisdom it holds. Just as she vows she will never give into the delusional world of white picket fences, minivans, and eternal love, she meets Max Mitchell. 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. 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 it wants to claim you as its own.

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.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Reissue, Low Price CD
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Her plane circled the Lowcountry. Acres upon acres of live oaks stood beneath them, guardians festooned in sheets of breezy Spanish moss. They passed over the powerful waters of the Wando, Cooper and Ashley Rivers and hundreds of tiny rippling tributaries that sluiced their way in tendrils toward the Atlantic Ocean. It was so beautiful, all the shimmering blue water, that seemed to be scattered with shards of crystals and diamonds. Beth's heart tightened. Every last passenger stared out through their windows at the landscape below. 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. Seeing it again was like seeing it for the first time—hypnotic.

The small jet finally touched down on the steaming tarmac at Charleston's airport and after a few braking lurches it rolled to a stop at the terminal. When the flight attendant opened the cabin door humidity poured in, blanketing the cabin in a great whoosh like an invisible gas. The air was heavy, weighted by the stench of jet fuel diluted with salt.

“Hold on, baby.”

Beth's miniature Yorkshire terrier, Lola seemed to understand everything she said. If she spoke to her in Swahili she would look at her with those licorice eyes of hers, raise her eyebrows and smile. Yes, her dog smiled but not just then. Lola whimpered and began to squirm. Beth stretched her finger through the netting of her dog's carrier to console her with a tiny massage. All five pounds of Lola settled against her as they slowly made their way with the restless passengers, across the muggy jet way and into the sorrowful, weak air conditioning of the terminal. She hoped Lola wasn't going to start wheezing. Could a mother love a child more than Beth Hayes loved her dog? She doubted it.

The climate had changed over the years. Global warming was obvious and in Charleston, the weather was practically tropical. Beth had decided that it was too uncomfortable to consider anything except escape into the jungle or a total surrender to the ruling party.

Beth had chosen surrender and was there to begin serving her one-year sentence in the Lowcountry, house sitting the family's grand dame on Sullivans Island. The Island Gamble. The family's chateau stood in defiance of her age and history and she reigned over them like Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. Beth could not envision England's history without Elizabeth I any more than she could dream of Sullivans Island without that particular house as center stage for the disjointed hauntings of her sleeping hours. All of her dreams were acted out on Sullivans Island and at the Island Gamble. In the rooms. On the porch. In the yard looking back. Always, always there.

They used the term “chateau” loosely even humorously, but during the days and nights of their lives, the Island Gamble was where any and everything of significance for generations had been told around her tables or had been revealed in the confessional of her front porch. Lives were dissected and discussed deep into the night until aunts, uncles, and especially children, exhausted from the heat and laughter, nodded off in their rockers or hammocks. Their aspirations, broken hearts, and victories were all recorded for posterity in the family's collective memory, the details rearranged and embellished as time went on to make for better storytelling.

The house knew everything about them and being there made them believe that they were safe from the outside world. In their case, telling family tales was what they seemed to do best. They would laugh and say that if there had been an Olympic event for working a jaw, the walls of the Island Gamble would have buckled from the burden of gold medals. Truly, the family was a very sentimental lot and their point of view was that the ability to poke fun at their own foibles was what saved them from despair on many a day.

That's how it was. The aging sometimes shaking ramparts of the Hamilton fortress were stockpiled with invisible weapons of remember when … we never … and we always … as though they existed in their own great saline bubble, with a sacred family crest to live up to.

Sometimes the family wore Beth out with what she saw as excessive self-importance and righteousness. One day her aunts, uncles and cousins would all be the stuffings of novels, even memoirs perhaps, if she could find the courage to put it all on paper. But not just yet. Today Beth was on another mission. The Dutiful Daughter was back.

Beth gathered her luggage, walked Lola on the grassy median outside and found a place in the short taxi line. Part of her was excited and the other part was simply miserable. She loved Sullivans Island because it was her personal time warp. Even though it was 2009, when you were there you would believe that Eisenhower was still in office, even though that was well before her time. But in her heart she felt the island really belonged to her mother's generation and those before her. The last four years had prepared her to live her own life, independent of her tribe. Isn't that why she went to college a thousand miles away in the first place? Further, this assignment, decided upon with the cavalier flick of her mother and aunt's royal wrists, blocked her from pursuing her own dream but enabled her mother to live hers. It wasn't a fair trade but she wasn't exactly given an option. If asked she would say dryly, “My mom and my Aunt Maggie could benefit from even one session of sensitivity training. Seriously.”

She climbed in the next available rattletrap and soon she was on her way. At least she had Lola to console her.

“Could you turn up the air conditioning, please?” she asked. Beth's upper lip was covered in little beads of moisture and the roots of her hair were damp.

“Sure.” The driver said. “Today's a hot one, yeah?”

“Yep. It sure is.”

The old van complained with each pothole and strained against the slightest rise in the road. Its ancient driver, an old man whose white hair was as thick and coarse as a broom, was crouched over the steering wheel. The intensity of his focus on the road was nerve wracking. He drove like a lumbering walrus in the middle lane as hundreds of cars zoomed by them. She actually considered offering to drive thinking she preferred death by her own hand.

Memorabilia was strung across the old man's dashboard, photographs attached with bits of curling tape and lopsided magnets from Niagara Falls and in Beth's opinion, other painfully boring vacation spots. Judging from their faded condition, the people of those pictures, his children she guessed, were grown and had been gone from his home for a long time. His taxi license read Mr. George Brown. He sighed loudly and cleared his throat as the van's transmission struggled and jerked with each changing gear. She wondered if they would ever reach the causeway. Mr. Brown did not know that he was delivering her, her little dog, two large suitcases and a duffle bag, bulging with university memories, soggy farewells and a poor attitude to one very bittersweet destination.

“You want to take 526 or the new bridge?”

“Whatever you think,” she said.

She had told her mother, Susan that she would take a cab from the airport to the beach.

She was in no hurry to see anyone. Besides, she had just seen her mother and family at graduation a month ago so the usual sense of urgency she felt to be with her, the excitement of those initial moments of grabbing each other's eyes, had been satisfied. She was home before the longing could begin again. As all mothers do, Susan frequently drove her daughter to the edge of what she could endure but the truth was Beth loved her mother no matter what and more than anyone in the world.

Like most mothers and daughters, their relationship was naturally complicated by simply living and lately by the many small acts of letting each other go. But theirs was different in that it was scarred by the pain of tragic loss. To be completely honest, the loss was epic to Beth but she felt it was less so to her mother. That single fact marked the beginning of a worrisome divide between them. Beth was not exactly sure of all the reasons why she felt so burdened but she sometimes staggered under the weight of the sea of emptiness she carried. She felt like her mother had tossed aside her share and left her to flounder for herself. It wasn't fair or noble.

Then there was the matter of expectations, ones Beth would never meet much less surmount. It was impossible to be the oldest girl in the next generation of Hamiltons/Hayes and ever expect raving accolades from the lips of her elders. She might have looked for some measure of satisfaction from them but she would never expect a parade in her honor. There was no excessive flattery to be found.

Her aunts and uncles owned the past and they still thought the future was theirs as well. Beth begged to differ. She felt they were wrong about so many things that she was embarrassed for them, one more reason she had planned to continue to build her life elsewhere.

The distance between Beth's college and Sullivans Island had allowed the rest of her relatives to revel in their shared hallucinations of perfect family. College had spared her four years of their self-congratulations and she thanked everything holy that she had not been there. If she had been on that porch or around that table peeling shrimp with them, she would have said that what they actually were was very far from perfect. They would not have valued her observations. In college, she had developed a tongue.

It didn't matter now. She was not going to be the one to point out that their conservative ideas had never advanced their family's name one inch. She was going to try to be the good daughter, the responsible niece, the one who came and did her duty. Why? Because even though they all practically bored her to death, Beth loved them with a fierce passion she doubted she could ever duplicate in another relationship. But that's how they were, the Hamiltons and the Hayes, bonded by loyalty and an unseen force.

Beth suspected what everyone else already knew. That unseen force, that Lowcountry Force, the Goddess of the Island Gamble, if you like, was waiting for her. That's why surrender was the only choice. She guessed that any other course could be met with some strange but actual version of Universal Mockery until she gave in and became a willing player in the game. Welcome back to the chessboard! Get in position! Let's see, that would make Beth a pawn.

But, she thought, in spite of everything, it would be very interesting to see how the year would unfold. A year was a long time. Her intention was to avoid any and all controversy and every kind of chaos.

Beth laughed to herself realizing she had almost no real hand in the whole scenario anyway. She knew better. With the beckoning curl of their fingers, Aunt Maggie and her mother, Susan Hamilton Hayes, had coaxed her to the edge of their ancestral frying pan and she was crawling in like a lean slice of bacon. It wouldn't take long to cook her.

The taxi crossed over the Cooper River on the new bridge and next thing she knew, they were cruising down Coleman Boulevard, Mr. Brown's van straining to meet thirty miles an hour.

Stylistically, that is, if you wanted to impress anyone, his vehicle, that great hulking Chariot of Smoke and Fire, was not the optimal way to arrive in your hometown. Not that anyone beyond the gene pool was expecting her. But Beth thought it would have been awesome to be driving in some hot convertible wearing oversized sunglasses listening to some new music, something she knew all the words to so that she could sing at the top of her lungs. It would have been very, very awesome, she thought, if someone in another convertible, someone of the opposite sex who resembled a movie star perhaps, like Hugh Jackman, turned his head and the question of her true identity stopped him dead, all he could do was grin and follow her home, promising to rescue her from her dreary existence. Starting now. Lasting forever. Why not? A girl could dream, right?

But she wasn't of that ilk—the rescued damsel type. She was well, sort of the pathetically serious one, the one sporting the inexpensive copy of Tina Fey's eyeglasses, without the benefit of her jaw line or innate sense of style. Not to mention Tina Fey was really smart and funny while Beth was smart, her humor was dry and sometimes she was marginally dour. Okay, so she knew her eyeglasses were an infinitesimal attempt at stardom chic, but it was a start.

Beth left Charleston four years ago dressed like a Lowcountry princess in training and somehow fell into the student life, adopting a Beacon Hill slash Jack Kerouac kind of look that wasn't exactly Lilly Pulitzer. Lately, people knitted their eyebrows together at the sight of her and completely unsolicited, they offered her rubber bands to restrain her hair. She was the first one chosen as a lab partner and the last one invited on the conga line. Oh sure, she drank her share of beer in college and once she actually got completely toasted on tequila shots and had to spend two days in bed drinking Maalox and nibbling little bites of bananas dipped in peanut butter. But that was the exception, not the rule. Perhaps she had overdone the brainiac study thing in college and didn't look like a Carolina girl on her way to the Windjammer to shag all night—and that's a dance, not a sexual act—and well, so what? Beth was still a smart cookie who simply had yet to latch onto a lasting personal style.

Beth knew very early on that if she wanted to go to graduate school she was going to need a scholarship. So when all her girlfriends were out raising hell, dressed in bed sheets and acting like boozerellas, she was in her dorm memorizing biology spellings and studying finance. Unlike her friends and roommates who all seemed happy to have predestined futures, she viewed college as a ticket out of a life on that great southern hamster wheel. One generation hopped off and went to heaven and the next one hopped on, picking up where the others left off, running like idiots in Ray Bans and Top Siders until they dropped dead too. Not that she really had anything super serious against her family or that life, it was just that she wanted to see the world and think about things, be somebody different, do something great, like write the great American novel or at least have her blog picked up for publication before she was thirty. Was that too much to hope for? She was thinking now that maybe it was. At least, so far. Because if she was so Albert Einstein smart and destined for such global literary greatness, what was she doing with a deferred scholarship, sweating like a pig in the back of a clanking van, headed for a funky old haunted house on a sandbar? She already knew the answer but to reinforce her own commitment, she would breathe the words again. She was Beth Hayes, The Obedient One.

They crossed the Ben Sawyer Bridge and for the billionth time she wondered who Ben Sawyer was. It would have made sense if the bridge was named for Edgar Allen Poe, who actually lived on Sullivans Island for a while. But Ben Sawyer? She had never heard of any Sawyers on Sullivans Island. Like her mother always said, who were his people? But there you had one more small but significant enigma of Sullivans Island, a land washed in mystery and populated with the kind of characters Tennessee Williams would have loved to have known.

They were on the island then, and Beth was straining her neck to read the leash laws that were posted on the huge sign on the right. She didn't want Lola to get busted by the dog police for dropping her carte du visite in the wrong spot.

She rubbed her eyes. What was this? Oz? Perhaps it was the time of day but the houses seemed brighter, more well-defined and the palmettos and oleanders seemed greener, their branches and the edges of their fronds were sharper. The sky seemed to be a more vibrant shade of blue than she could recall. She took a deep breath and even with the van's air conditioning running full blast she could still smell plough mud, which was an acquired taste and dangerously addictive. In her dreams she actually smelled plough mud.

Despite the economy, there was gentrification everywhere but the kind that pleased her. Most of the old migrant worker cottages that flanked the road onto the island had been resurrected and transformed into million dollar futures with colorful lush window boxes of fuchsia geraniums, hot pink petunias and bushy asparagus ferns to prove it. It was amazing, she thought, what you could accomplish with the combination of elbow grease, a little money and a clear vision.

They came to the corner and she noticed that the gas station was under new ownership, gouging its customers an extra twenty cents per gallon for the privilege of convenience. That would never change no matter who owned it. The patrons of Dunleavys Pub, noisy families and happy dogs, spilled out onto the sidewalk picnic tables, laughing, talking and having lunch. Her stomach began to growl when she thought about their quesadillas. Judging from the parking lot, Durst Family Medicine appeared to be doing a brisk business. Probably legions of poison ivy and sunburn victims, she thought. People were walking to the beach pulling wagons loaded with gear, toddlers and iced water in their coolers and Beth thought she might like a walk on the beach that day to introduce Lola to the ocean.

The dependable rolling panorama of robust life gave her some relief. For as much as Beth embraced the twenty first century, like all true Charlestonians, she hated change of almost any kind. Commercial development made her suspicious and she generally ignored its creeping advance, hoping it might go away. If she had lived there full time she would have fought it with all her might. They could build all the Starbucks and Sonics in the world on Mount Pleasant and the adjoining island of Isle of Palms but something deep inside of her depended on the peninsula of Charleston and the entire length and breadth of Sullivans Island to remain the same. So far it was reasonably so.

They turned right on Middle Street, the Champs Elysse of the island, and began to head toward her house. In the time it might take to swallow a pill, she would be back, perched on the threshold of her childhood. Her stomach began to flutter.

Memories flooded her mind all at once—all of them together, cousins, aunts, uncles, all of them. She could see herself and the others as children, running around in their pajamas, spinning like helicopters in the silver dusk, fall down dizzy, chasing lightning bugs, scooping them into mayonnaise jars with holes punched in the top. The holes were made by her Uncle Grant's ice pick that they were forbidden to touch.

“Don't you children even think about laying a hand on that thing,” he would say in a very stern voice to his boys. Then he would turn to Beth with a wink and she knew he wasn't so very mean as all that.

Summers! Searching the thicket for wild blackberries in the full sun of the day, filling coffee cans with them, and later, sunburned and freckled, how they feasted on hot sugary blackberry dumplings that her Aunt Maggie whipped up in her copper pots. There were literally hundreds of days when her boys, Mickey and Bucky and Beth caught crabs down by the rocks with Uncle Grant. They used chicken necks for bait, tied up in knots on weighted ends of cord. They caught blue crabs by the score, shrieking as they moved them ever so carefully from the line to the net to the basket, trying not to get pinched—The Revenge of the Ill Fated Crab. They shrieked again with excitement when one escaped the basket in the kitchen or on the porch, clicking its claws as it hurried sideways, looking for salvation. There was no salvation for those guys, no ma.am. They wound up steamed and dumped right from the colander on newspapers that were spread over the porch table, cracked apart and dipped in cocktail sauce. It made her laugh to remember. She realized then that she had not been crabbing in years. And she remembered how she had completely embraced her closely-knit family when she was young and how important it had been to her.

“Maybe I should take up crabbing again, Lola. Do you want to come and help?”

“What's that?” Mr. Brown said.

“Nothing. I was just talking to my dog.”

“No reason why not.”

They passed the hill fort then and Beth sighed with relief as it had not changed one lick, except for the children's park built in front of it that had sprung up some years ago. In her mind's eye, she could see herself, her cousins and a gang of island kids, sliding down it on flattened cardboard boxes and catching the devil from the town fathers for trespassing and sledding on the patchy grass. They had been very young, not quite ten, when Mickey had his first brush with the law.

“What do you think you.re doing, son?”

Mickey looked up into the face of the Chief of Police and everyone thought he was going to wet his pants, right there in front of the whole world.

“Um, nothing?”

“You children get on out of here now, before I have to lock you all up! You hear me?”

Beth giggled to remember how they had abandoned their cardboard and ran in every direction to escape incarceration.

She remembered flying kites on the beach in the winter and all those stories they told and retold … you see, as long as things looked about the same and they told and retold the same stories, the past was still alive. They could all stay young and live forever. In that moment, that was what she wanted—for her life to be as it had been before her father died and to live forever in that corner of her childhood world.

“Turn left here?” Mr. Brown said, snapping her out of her daydream.

“Yes, left here and then right to that driveway on the left. Yes. Left here.”

“Welcome home,” Mr. Brown said and put the car in park, leaving the engine to continue its rumbling. “Always good to be home, ain't it?”

She simply said, “Yeah, it is.” What she wanted to say was something else entirely. She wanted to say, you don't know how complicated this is. I might be swallowed alive in the next year. Get me out of here. But she didn't.

She only said, “yeah, it is.”

Beth leaned forward in her seat to size up the Island Gamble. She thought she had known exactly what to expect. The house would loom large, spooky and scare the daylights out of her with its enormity. But it didn't. She was ship shape. Her shutters were straight, her white clapboards glistened from a recent paint job and her silver tin roof mirrored the enormous clouds overhead like the compact mirror of a dowager. The Island Gamble seemed sweet, grandmotherly, and nostalgic, as safe a haven as one could ever want. At the sight of it she became emotional and suddenly she wanted to cry. There was her mother's old Volvo wagon and her Aunt Maggie's car too. They were there, waiting for her.

She got out and liberated Lola from her crate, hooking her leash to her collar. She paid Mr. Brown and he deposited her luggage at the foot of the steps, meaning she would have the pleasure of hauling it all up the steps and into the house and then up another two flights to the second floor.

“Thanks,” she said and gave him five dollars instead of the ten she would have given him if he had taken her bags inside.

Mr. Brown shrugged his shoulders, got back into his van, put it in reverse and backed out of her life.

Lola was nosing around, sniffing the Lantana and the Pittosporum when a screen door slammed against its frame. Thwack! Beth looked up to see her mother and Aunt Maggie hurrying down the steps to greet her.

“He-ey!” Aunt Maggie called out in a singsong. “Come on and give your auntie a kiss, you bad girl!”

“I'm not bad,” she said and smiled.

“Yes, she is!” Mom said, “Come here, Lola baby!”

“What about kissing your daughter?” She said.

“After I scratch my granddog,” she said, gave Beth a slap on her bottom and scooped up Lola from the grass. “Look at my precious widdle baby!” Lola proceeded to wash Susan's face, one slurp at a time. “Come see, Maggie! Our Lola's got your nose and my chin!”

“Well, look at that! Would y.all look at this little bit of a fur ball? Hey, darlin'.” Aunt Maggie allowed Lola to lick her hand, much like you might kiss the Pope's ring, and then she turned her attention to Beth, narrowing her famous blue eyes. “All right now, Missy. Want to tell your aunt what in the world you did to your hair?”

“I merely enhanced the red.”

“I'll say! Whew! Well, hon, it's just hair, isn't it?” She sighed so large Beth caught the fragrance of her toothpaste.

Aunt Maggie, the self-proclaimed matriarch of the family did not like Beth's hair. Apparently. Beth did not give a rip what she thought. She was there to do them a favor, not to get a makeover. She was immediately annoyed but hiding it pretty well. She deemed it unwise to arrive and start bickering right away.

“Don't you pick on my child,” Mom said to Maggie and gave Beth a dramatic hug, fingering her ringlets. “I happen to love red hair!”

Beth took Lola back from her. As usual, her mother had read her mind.

“Let me help you with the bags, kiddo.” Aunt Maggie said groaning under the weight of her duffle bag. “Lawsa mercy, chile! What you got in here? Bricks?”

“Books,” she said, “and more books. Sorry. This one's worse.”

Everyone took a bag and they grumbled their way up the stairs, across the small back porch and into the kitchen.

“Where do y'all want me to sleep?”

“Take your old room for now but when we leave you can rotate bedrooms if you want.” Aunt Maggie said. “You must be starving. I made lunch so why don't you go wash airplane and dog off your hands and we can eat?”

Airplane and dog? She was almost twenty-three years old. Did she really need someone to tell her to wash her hands?

“Sure,” she said, kicked off her flip-flops and took two of her bags up the steps to her old room that had never really been hers.

The bedroom where Beth had spent so many nights, housed her parent's four-poster bed which had come into their hands when her grandparents went to their great reward. When her mother and stepfather sold the house on Queen Street and moved in with her Aunt Maggie and Uncle Grant just as they were moving to California, her mother had sold most of their belongings in an undistinguished yard sale and brought only the most important pieces of furniture and some other things with her. Those things that mattered to her and those she thought mattered to Beth and yes, that was another issue Beth had with her. How could someone else decide what was important to you?

The big mirror was the first artifact to arrive, followed by an old grandfather clock that chimed when it was in the mood. But the mirror was the thing. The Mirror, the curious and well-used doorway for those no longer of the flesh, was firmly installed in her Aunt Maggie's living room the week before her mother married Simon Rifkin. So her mother's exodus back to the island had actually begun before Beth realized what was going on. Maggie had always wanted the mirror back, saying it was original to the house. She had whined about that thing like it was made out of the skin of her children. But that's how Beth's Aunt Maggie was—acquisitive to the tenth power. Her mom didn't mind returning it saying she didn't need the deceased walking around her house at all hours anyway. This made her mom happy and Aunt Maggie happy and Beth well, not so much if she had recognized its departure as a sign of the times.

So, in addition to house arrest, Beth would have the company of every dead person the family had ever known, if you believed in that stuff, which she did, because she knew it to be so from first hand experience.

Meet the Author

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

Brief Biography

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

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Return to Sullivans Island 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
LuckyPatty More than 1 year ago
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.
ARTSMART More than 1 year ago
It was slow to start. I couldn't get into the ghost thing. It seemed written for someone much younger than me.
krin More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot recommend this book. Do read Sullivan's Island. I would also recommend Bulls Island, Isle of Palms, and Shem Creek.
Douglass-Debbie More than 1 year ago
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.
pcgrace More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the best of this author's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although Return to Sullivan's was a good book, the original was much, much better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love most of her books but this one feels like it was scratched together from old cliched srories. Poor
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had the entire plot figured out in thirty pages or less.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
SCSandy More than 1 year ago
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!
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good continuation of the story begun in Sullivan's Island , with thevsame mesterful prose snd the same characters. It did, however, seem to delve much more into the spooky and supernatural than the previous book. Also, I found it hard yo believe that yhe main character would be so foolish and weak after reading about the strong character of Susan in the last book. Bottom line, it could have been allot better. Stephanie Clanahan
LisaM221 More than 1 year ago
As so many others have said, this was really not a good book. I loved Sullivan's Island and was hoping this would be as good, but it was a huge disappointment. It was a very one-dimensional story with a ridiculously bad ending. That being said, I'm still planning on reading some of this author's other books that are set in the Low Country. I moved to the Charleston area a year ago and really enjoy reading stories set in the area, so I hope her other books will be more along the lines of Sullivan's Island.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BeachRead245 More than 1 year ago
Sullivan’s Island is the treasure of the low country. In Return to Sullivan’s Island Beth Hays makes a return to this treasured island. Her family has asked her for a commitment for a year. Synopsis: Is this a commitment that she wants? Beth goes despite obligation to family. Her mother Susan is leaving to go to France and teach at the University. Her Aunt Maggie is going to California with her family. So someone must stay at the house! Her Aunt Sophie suggests for her to go and get a job, and use the experience to write her book. One job is as a freelance journalist for the local paper. Beth’s first assignment is the destruction of a favorite landmark and the new construction project. She is worried that this project goes against the rich history of Sullivan’s Island. Max Mitchell is the developer and sparks Beth’s interest. What will this relationship go anywhere? What will happen to Beth’s family? Will they forgive her for her choices? My Thoughts: This is my first Dorothea Benton Frank novel. I can tell you that I am ready for the next one. I listened to this novel as an audiobook. Robin Miles is an excellent reader/narrator. I hope that she is part of more of Dorothea’s novels. I did come into this series in the second book. I felt that I might have missed a little of the history of the Hamilton family. The author’s style of writing brings the reader in and makes them comfortable. She communicated an obvious love for the low country. The author paints a vivid picture of what is it like to be at Sullivan’s Island. This novel is rich in culture and history of the south.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
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!
Nanny2 More than 1 year ago
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.