>Sullivan’s Island: what a difference!

>When I knew I would be reading Return to Sullivan’s Island, I put in a request on paperbackswap for Sullivan’s Island, the first book in the series and Dorthea Benton Franks’ inaugural novel. I didn’t enjoy Return. With a little trepidation and more than a little curiousity, I picked up the other.

Sullivan’s Island is much, much better than its sequel.

As the title suggests, the setting is in itself a major character. The heat, the salty air, the tides, the beach — all are integral to the plot. Through the eyes of Susan, the second daughter in a large Catholic family, a rather sheltered group of siblings comes to grips with complex relationships between their kin and their neighbors. Their housekeeper is as much family as the uncle and aunt, in fact is more beloved by the children. Susan comes to grips with her conflicted past and calls on her strengths to face a murky and challenging future, one that presents surprises at every page turn.

By moving the timeline from 1999 to 1963 and back again, the author lets Susan’s story unfold with details not always possible in a pure chronological piece. These time switches are clean and clear. Each chapter is labeled, Susan’s thoughts in the present day lead logically to her memories and vice versa, and the first person perspective fills in her past to set up her reasoning in her present.

I can’t apologize for my negative review of Return to Sullivan’s Island. The book was awful. But Sullivan’s Island feels as though it were written by an entirely different author. What happened? I don’t really want an answer. I do want to recommend Sullivan’s Island as a great beach read, a story that will transport its readers from wherever they are to the hot and steamy islands of South Carolina.

No paperbacks were harmed in the making of this review. In fact, I didn’t get a complimentary copy, either. Go ahead: find it in a bookstore or on Paperbackswap. Just don’t bother with the sequel.

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