TITLE: The Hurricane Sisters
AUTHOR: Dorothea Benton Frank
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
RELEASE DATE: June 3rd, 2014
RATING: ★★★ 1/2
Best friends since the first day of classes at The College of Charleston, Ashley Anne Waters and Mary Beth Smythe, now 23 years old, live in Ashley’s parents’ beach house rent-free. Ashley is a gallery assistant who aspires to become an artist. Mary Beth, a gifted cook from Tennessee, works for a caterer while searching for a good teaching job. Though they both know what they want out of life, their parents barely support their dreams and worry for their precarious finances.
While they don’t make much money, the girls do have a million-dollar view that comes with living in that fabulous house on Sullivans Island. Sipping wine on the porch and watching a blood-red sunset, Ashley and Mary Beth hit on a brilliant and lucrative idea. With a new coat of paint, the first floor would be a perfect place for soirees for paying guests. Knowing her parents would be horrified at the idea of common strangers trampling through their home, Ashley won’t tell them. Besides, Clayton and Liz Waters have enough problems of their own.
A successful investment banker, Clayton is too often found in his pied-a-terre in Manhattan–which Liz is sure he uses to have an affair. And when will Ashley and her brother, Ivy, a gay man with a very wealthy and very Asian life partner–ever grow up? Then there is Maisie, Liz’s mother, the family matriarch who has just turned eighty, who never lets Liz forget that she’s not her perfect dead sister, Juliet.
For these Lowcountry women, an emotional hurricane is about to blow through their lives, wreaking havoc that will test them in unexpected ways, ultimately transforming the bonds they share.
In The Hurricane Sisters, we meet the Waters family–well to do, reasonably well off financially, with a touch of dysfunction to keep it interesting.
The characters personalities in this book are what made it enjoyable for me. If I hadn’t found Maisie amusing and related a bit to Ashley then this whole book would have been a wash for me. Maisie, the 80 year old grandmother, is a riot. She really and truly reminds me a bit of my own grandmother and I found myself laughing out loud at some of her thoughts and actions. The mother, Liz, annoyed me for the majority of the book and I found the token gay brother to be a tired trope if I’m really honest.
I liked the idea of the dysfunction in this family. It was enough to be believable without it being wildly over the top. A mother struggles with the idea that her husband might be unfaithful, a daughter just wants to be supported emotionally by her parents in her life choices and career goals, Maisie struggles with getting older, and the best friend struggles with a dark family past. I appreciated the touch on racism between the family and Ivy’s Asian boyfriend because I have found that anything outside of caucasian in ‘the south’ is susceptible to racism regardless of who with–even by families that like to think they’re above such things.
I don’t want to give any spoilers for those that may want to read it but, in the end, the story felt rushed. In addition to that, I felt that some of Ashley’s choices and Liz’ naivety were plot devices and didn’t follow with the smart, sensible personality that had previously been portrayed. The last half of the book was somewhat disappointing. It’s like it verges on the edge of becoming a really powerful story but then shies away from it and walks meekly in the other direction.
As someone that resides right in the path of destruction for hurricanes I expected the hurricane to play a huge part in the story line, especially since it was in the title and all… but, no. It was disappointingly tame which made me wonder why the book ended up being called The Hurricane Sisters in the first place. I would read another work of Frank’s just to see how it compared to this one. I just wish the book had gone a little further and had a little more grit to it. Overall, not a bad read–just didn’t top my Love list like I had hoped.