Isle of Palms

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Sullivan’s Island (2000) and Plantation (2001), Dorothea Benton Frank demonstrated her skill in creating colorful characters and in evoking the unique atmosphere of coastal South Carolina. Isle of Palms is similar to those novels in that again the plotline involves a young woman haunted by the past, but here the author emphasizes the role of loyal friends and family members in helping her survive one crisis after another.

After years of living with her widowed father and working for a shrewish salon manager, Anna Lutz Abbot moves to her beloved Isle of Palms and opens her own hair salon, aided by her former husband, Jim Abbot, the gay friend who married Anna after a prom-night rape left her pregnant. During the summer, Anna’s staid father falls in love with a free-spirited neighbor; her daughter Emily returns from college an unmannerly rebel; and Anna has a fling with a Connecticut Yankee.

Although Anna tells most of the story, occasionally the elderly Miss Mavis provides a different point of view. It is Miss Mavis and her companion Miss Angel who persuade Anna to re-think her harsh opinion of her dead mother. Meanwhile, when she learns that the long-ago rapist is coming to the Isle of Palms, Anna realizes that she can no longer conceal from Emily the fact that he, not Jim, is her biological father. By the end of the summer, the heroine of this pleasant novel has discovered that a family can include people who are not related by blood but only by the fact that they care deeply about each other.