Monday, September 7, 2009

Back to the Lowcountry (Yum, Yum!)

I'm finally out of my slump of only liking Michael Connelly books. Don't get me wrong -- I still really like Connelly. Love his books. But I'm finally able to find some other books to enjoy. I had a week or two in which I just couldn't keep reading a book unless it was written by Connelly. I'm happy to say that is over!

I'm about midway through Dorothea Benton Frank's latest novel, Return to Sullivans Island, and it is every bit as good as her previous novels. This one is special because it is somewhat of a sequel. Fifteen years after her debut novel Sullivan's Island, Frank returns to that South Carolina island to continue the story with the main character's daughter Beth. Through Beth the reader gets a new perspective on the family first chronicled in Sullivan's Island. In addition, Beth has a new story of her own to tell and live in the novel's pages.

Frank's characters are always a treat to get to know in her books, but what makes her an especially interesting author to read is her locale. Frank writes tales set almost exclusively in the coastal regions of South Carolina. This is a fascinating place because of its uniqueness. The islands and marshland of South Carolina have been home for hundreds of years to the Gullah people. Frank fills her novels with genuine Gullah influences, both in food and in culture.

In Return to Sullivans Island she adds an element used sparingly in her other novels -- the voodoo/ ancestry worship side of life in the lowcountry. In the novel Beth's deceased ancestors make their presence known and influence the story in subtle ways. Magic and ghosts are not something I necessarily like in a novel. However, in the setting of the island surrounded by objects and a house that has been in Beth's family for generations, it somehow fits.

Frank has a copy of a press release on her website which discusses the novel, including her own childhood growing up on Sullivans Island and her decision to do a sequel, which prior to this book she had never done. I recommend both it and the book as good reading, especially if you are female and from the south. Also on her website are some lowcountry recipes from her foodie novel Shem Creek that I haven't tried yet, but give me time and I will!

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