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Isle of Palms
Dorothea Benton Frank
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Isle of Palms
Dorothea Benton Frank
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INTRODUCTION

Anna Lutz Abbot thinks she has her independence, and therefore her happiness, intact. She is a capable woman, a sensible woman, not someone given to risky living. This all seems to be true enough until her lovely daughter returns from college for the summer a very different person, her wild and wonderful ex-husband arrives, and her flamboyant new best friend takes up with her daddy, turning a hot summer into a steaming one—only to be cranked up another ten degrees by Anna's own fling with Arthur, who is, heaven help us, a Yankee. All the action unfolds under the watchful eyes of Miss Mavis and Miss Angel, her next-door neighbors of a certain age, who have plenty to say about Anna's past, present, and future.

 

ABOUT DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK
Dot Frank

The sands of Sullivan's Island follow me everywhere. No matter where I have traveled, worked or lived, I am only and always a woman whose home place is the beach. Growing up there gave me lots of time to dream - to dream of what my life would become. And writing this book gave me lots of time to remember. One of my happiest summer memories - besides digging holes to China and sliding down the hill fort - is of the Bookmobile. This old clanker of a bus/van would stop in front of my momma's house and I would run for my fortnightly dose of juvenile literature. Three books under my arm, I'd dive into our hammock and finish them all in one day without moving. Then I'd have to wait thirteen days until the Bookmobile returned. Waiting became a theme in my life - waiting for more books, waiting to be old enough to do this or that, for life to give me permission to pursue my dreams, for a million things. I'll probably never develop the virtue of patience, so waiting is my cross. It should be the worst thing I have ever had to bear.

Unlike my sister Lynn, I was a terrible student. Around my twelfth year, I stopped studying in school. I was the classic case of wanting to be cool, the Saving Ophelia Syndrome, rebelling against everything and a whole long list of pathetic excuses. I only reveal this now to let you know that where you start seldom has anything to do with where you land. Life is not like the trajectory of a bullet. I never stopped reading and I never stopped working. Both of these I do with frightening vigor. I managed to graduate from a fashion school on sheer luck and worked on Seventh Avenue for years. I took what skills I had used there into the world of volunteerism for a few more years, raising money for the arts and education.

That vigor is the thirst I could never quench, and the harsh realities of the business world and volunteer fundraising made me understand just how critical a complete education is. But love of words (and my compulsion to be understood) is what made this miracle of becoming a published author come true. So now I'd like to do something for other women who for whatever reason didn't get the educational experience they longed for and who can't find the courage to change their lives. And, needless to say, I'd like to do something for women and children without hope, who don't dream. Please take a moment to visit the Foundation link and share your thoughts.

So what else? I am ecstatically happy with my delicious husband of many years, Peter, and adore my two children, Victoria and William down to their last freckles. I have two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Henry and Buster who are as cute as cookies. I play awful tennis, cheat at cards to make my children laugh, speak emergency French and Italian - lots of gesturing, love to cook and entertain. I also garden like mad, still love to visit Sullivan's Island as often as possible, and am always looking for an adventure. I still read like a lunatic - favorite authors are the ones I shamelessly tortured to give me endorsements for my book - John Berendt, Pat Conroy, Bret Lott, Fern Michaels, and Ann Rivers Siddons. I'm always on a diet and admit to being slightly neurotic. If I could have anything in the world, it would be to pick up my entire life and drop it on the beach at Sullivan's Island. Writing is the next best thing.

You can visit Dottie Frank online at www.dotfrank.com.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Discuss the role of motherhood in the novel, especially how Anna's loss of her own mother at such a young age may have contributed to her own tempestuous relationship with her daughter Emily.

  2. Douglas has many difficult relationships with the women in his life: his late wife, his domineering mother and his daughter. Who is Douglas really and then what changes to bring about the giddy happiness he finds with Lucy?

  3. How do Raine's journal entries work within the novel? What do they reveal? What do they tell us about Raine herself, and the people that surround her, that is not (or cannot be) revealed by the rotating limited third person points of view used throughout the rest of the novel?

  4. How does the setting play a role in the novel, especially Anna's quest to move back to the Isle of Palms? Though just separated by the span of a bridge from Mt. Pleasant, where she lived for years, what makes the Isle of Palms different?

  5. Friendship plays an important role in all of Dorothea Benton Frank's novels. In Isle of Palms, old friends play an especially important role. Discuss how Jim and Frannie are essential in Anna's life.

  6. One of the ironies of Anna's return to the island is that she moves next door to Miss Mavis and Miss Angel who took care of her when her mother died. Have these ladies changed in the intervening years? What does Anna learn from them?

  7. Discuss Al's relationship with his wife Frieda. Is there a gradual disintegration of their relationship, or is the marriage already over by the time the book begins? What does Al learn about his relationships and his daily interaction with other people, let alone his wife, through the breakup of his marriage? Discuss the significance of the day he shoplifts the slip and the groceries—what kind of epiphany does he have?

  8. How has moving next door to Lucy changed Anna? And not just her Daddy's relationship with Lucy. What qualities does Lucy bring to Anna's business and life that completely shakes them both up?

  9. What is the nature of revenge and the power it holds over us? How does Anna deal with the issue of revenge in her life? Does she actively participate at first or is she swept along by the passion of her friends feelings?

  10. Women recreating their lives run through all of Dorothea Benton Frank's novels. How does Anna go about doing this? By the end of the novel do you think she's succeed and to what extent?