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Lowcountry Summer: A Plantation Novel    by Dorothea Benton Frank Amazon.com order for
Lowcountry Summer
by Dorothea Benton Frank
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

Though I hadn't read a previous Plantation novel by Dorothea Benton Frank, it was easy to enter the author's world and appreciate her quirky characters, especially the story's narrator, Caroline Wimbley Levine, who has a very healthy libido. She balances her attraction to anything in pants with the trials and tribulations of extended family life - especially as it manifests in the bizarre and destructive actions of her alcoholic sister-in-law Frances Mae.

As the novel opens, Caroline and family celebrate her forty-sixth birthday at Tall Pines. Caroline still misses her mother, Miss Lavinia, whose hundreds of pairs of shoes are hard for anyone to fill! Caroline's brother Trip is there with his long-time partner Rusty, unable to marry since Frances Mae refuses to sign separation papers. Caroline's son Eric is home from university for the occasion (she discovers that he has an older girlfriend) as is Trip's daughter Amelia.

Millie and Mr. Jenkins continue their relationship in an 'old-school, discreet and modest' fashion. Caroline's current beau is the passionate Bobby Mack, who 'raised pastured Heirloom pork to the music of Chopin' and keeps her well supplied with bacon. Note that, despite this ongoing relationship, Caroline is not averse to the occasional fling with muscular county sheriff Matthew Strickland.

When a drunken Frances Mae is escorted to the birthday party by Matthew (along with her injured daughter Chloe) after a car accident, Caroline and Millie decide that something must be done and maneuever to make things right. Caroline persuades her cheapskate of a brother to send his ex to rehab and to organize the care of his errant and hostile daughters with Rusty's help. It all goes as well as might be expected until tragedy unexpectedly strikes.

Overall, Lowcountry Summer reads rather like a Southern soap opera, filled with constant highs and lows, plenty of humor (as when Bobby Mack has a heart attack at an embarrassing moment) and drama, a tad of mysticism, and frequent snippets of wisdom. And despite all the angst and sorrow, it ends for Caroline with 'a full heart and without a worry in the world.'

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth: (Rating:3):

I had one big problem with Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank. It was too darned short!

I fell for this wonderful book while reading the very first page. And loved it all the way through to the last. I laughed and I cried in the appropriate spots. I gasped at times at the protagonist's interest in men and their expertise in bed. Not explicit sex, you understand, just a touch of whimsy about what could possibly be.

Caroline Whimbley is 46 and missing her mother's cornfed philosophies. What would Lavinia do WWLD is constantly on Caroline's mind as she tackles her son's affair with a much older unmarried mother, her brother's four out-of-control daughters, her sister-in-law's frequent drunken rampages, and her dear friend Millie's interest in the other world.

I fell in love with the landscape on both banks of the Edisto River which winds around Edisto Island off the coast of South Carolina. Having been there, I can happily recall the lovely sunsets and the flora and fauna so majestically described. The Whimbley meals can make the reader drool so keep a napkin handy.

Some danged good advice rests in Lowcountry Summer if you care to take it. At least the proferred advice - that Caroline gives herself, as though channeled through her mother Lavinia - makes sense.

Great sunny beach read. Or even on those days of misty rain. It will lift you up and give you hope for your own little piece of the world, or possibly make you maudlin and encourage you to straighten up that small world in which you live. Whichever! Just don't miss this gem.

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