Sullivan’s Island is a real place, a barrier island seven miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. Home to Fort Moultrie, which is known for its role in the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is also called the “Ellis Island of Slavery” as over 200,000 slaves from the west coast of Africa entered our country on its shores between 1770 and 1775. As a young soldier, Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie and wrote The Gold Bug during that time. It is said the island is a haunted place, populated with the ghosts of broken hearts and lives of untold courage.
Dorothea Benton Frank’s first novel, Sullivan’s Island combines the stories of love and family with history and place. Set in 1963 and in 1999, it compares and contrasts coming of age in the tumultuous early sixties to coming of age in the peace of the early nineties. It introduces the Gullah Culture to many people for the first time and explains its significance in forming the traditions and values of the island children, which they carry into their adult lives. Sullivan’s Island looks at the rigors of Catholicism during the early sixties, shattered childhood innocence, betrayal and revenge and the magic of Lowcountry life.
The protagonist, Susan Hamilton Hayes is in her early forties when we meet her. She is the wife of Tom, a prominent Charleston attorney and the mother of their daughter, Beth. In the prologue, we watch her life implode and then watch and learn how she puts it back together with great humor and pure grit.
We travel back with her to revisit the bitter disappointments of her childhood until she discovers decades later that those juvenile conundrums and challenges gave her the strength to face her adult years. And, most of those lessons were taught to her by Livvie Singleton, an African American woman, descended from slavery.
The Lowcountry itself as important as any character in Sullivan’s Island, because its rich history and great beauty teach all the characters who they are and where they belong on the planet. Perhaps most importantly, the Lowcountry and the night sky ofSullivan’s Island guide the characters to connect with the spiritual side of life and show them that love never dies.
ABOUT DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK
Dorothea Benton Frank grew up on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina and is the author of three NY Timesbestselling novels—Sullivan’s Island (Jove 2000), Plantation (Jove 2001) and Isle of Palms (Berkley 2003). All of her Lowcountry Tales feature a powerful sense of place and strong female characters who tackle life with a healthy sense of humor. Pat Conroy hailed Sullivan’s Island as hilarious and wise and Anne Rivers Siddons said it roars with life.
She has been a member of the NJ State Council on the Arts and the Drumthwachet Foundation, both appointments made by the Governor of NJ and currently serves as a member of the NJ Cultural Trust. In addition, she is a trustee of the Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, NJ, the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta GA and a member of Writers for Readers, a group that sponsors Literacy Partners in New York. A long time supporter of the arts and education, Ms. Frank has also served on the boards of The American Stage Company, The NJ Chamber Music Society, The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, The Community Foundation of NJ and others.
She is married to Peter Frank, the mother of two teenagers and they divide their time between South Carolina and the New York area. She invites readers to visit her web site at www.dotfrank.com.
Praise for the novels of Dorothea Benton Frank:
“Her books are funny, sexy, and usually DAMP WITH SEA WATER.”—Pat Conroy
“ONE HECK OF A BEACH BOOK…Frank keeps you reading compulsively.”—Charlotte Observer
“BLAZINGLY AUTHENTIC…A rich read.”—Publishers Weekly
“Sullivan’s Island ROARS WITH LIFE.”—Anne Rivers Siddons
- What is the Lowcountry and how important is it to the story of Sullivan’s Island?
- What is the Gullah culture and how did it impact the psyche of Susan Hamilton Hayes and her siblings? And, did Livvie Singleton’s legacy have an impact on Susan’s daughter, Beth?
- Would you say that it was better to have come of age in the sixties or the nineties and what are the principal differences in those decades from Susan’s point of view. Is she right?
- Susan makes a claim that the world has been made better and safer by the people of her generation. What do you think?
- Susan’s relationship with Livvie is a powerful one as is her relationship with her own mother. Would you say that her mother’s weakness was as valuable to her as Livvie’s strength? And, would you describe Livvie and Susan’s mother, MC as frustrated by their positions in life?
- Susan’s father, Hank is a complicated man. Would you say that, if he were a young parent today, that he could be convicted of child abuse? And, why didn’t Marvin Struthers have him arrested for it in 1963? How have attitudes changed about parent’s rights to discipline their children?
- Susan’s grandfather, Tipa is a classic example of a southern gentleman of his day. Was his bigotry understandable for the early 1960’s? Discuss how the love Susan felt for Livvie grew against the narrow mindedness of her grandfather. Do you think that she loved her grandfather and indeed, did she love her parents?
- Should Susan have taken Tom back? How realistic is forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of blatant adultery of Tom’s variety? How well did she handle explaining it to Beth and then coping with her relationship with Tom and Beth?
- Why did Simon Rifkin play such a long lasting role in Susan’s life? Was she naïve about him or were they fated to be together? Is there such a thing as fate?
- Is it dangerous to love someone with limits on the amount of affection and loyalty you intend to allot them? What happens when Susan and Maggie talk about being stingy with affection and commitment?
- The south is known for its ghost stories and tales of the inexplicable. Do you think that the mirror described inSullivan’s Island was believable? And, if not, who among you has had something happen that defied scientific explanation?
- How critical is complete truth in a marriage? Is anyone ever completely honest with someone who holds the immediate stability and the near future in their hands? When is lying permissible? And, when a lie is exposed, how forgiving are you?