Born and raised on idyllic Sullivan's Island, Susan Hayes navigated through her turbulent childhood with humor, bravery and characteristic Southern sass. But years later, she is a conflicted woman with an unfaithful husband, a sometimes resentful teenage daughter, and a heart that aches with painful, poignant memories. And as Susan faces her uncertain future, she realizes that she must go back to her past. To the beachfront house where her sister welcomes her with open arms. To the only place she can truly call home and put the ghosts of her past to rest.
Frank's debut novel is a story of redemption set in South Carolina's steamy low country. Susan Hamilton Hayes's comfortable Charleston existence is shattered when she finds her husband in bed with another woman. Faced with a failed marriage, a confused teenage daughter and a mediocre job, she sets about the business of healing. Slowly, supported by visits to her sister in their childhood home on sleepy Sullivan's Island, Susan becomes a successful newspaper columnist, regains her confidence as a woman (despite a hilariously deflating date) and finally explores the death of her complex, abusive father decades before. Chapters alternate between the present and 1963, the year her father died, as Susan faces both the strength and the damaging effects of her family legacy. The ending - complete with a perfect suitor reemerging from Susan's youth - is almost too picture perfect to ring true but both the setting and the characters are blazingly authentic. Frank evokes the eccentric Hamilton family and their feisty Gullah housekeeper with originality and conviction; Susan herself - smart, sarcastic, funny and endearingly flawed - makes a lively and memorable narrator. Thanks to these scrappily compelling portraits, this is a rich read.