More folksy love, marriage and magic in Frank’s (Return to Sullivan’s Island, 2010, etc.) winning book.
Caroline Wimbley Levine is at loose ends. The daughter of Wimbley matriarch, Miss Lavinia, she has returned to Tall Pines Plantation to take charge of the family home and, apparently, the lives of her relatives. The lowcountry of South Carolina may have limited romantic possibilities—neither of Caroline’s major beaus (a barbecue chef and a local cop) tempt her to remarry—but its limited social circle is full of complications. The major one is her brother Trip’s troubled separation from the falling-down drunk Frances Mae, a woman both Caroline and her mother had disapproved of from the start not because “she was a low class red neck slut from nowhere” but because “she was greedy, jealous, small-minded, petty and mean-spirited.” The main conflict begins when Frances Mae crashes her car with her young daughter as a passenger, forcing Caroline—and an unwilling Trip—to take action. But as Caroline tries to channel Miss Lavinia’s voice, she tends to hear only the old prejudices. While Frances Mae, a woman whose unrefined accent is made clear through her slurred protestations of “I love yew” when the extended family enacts an intervention, is hardly sympathetic, Caroline has a few lessons to learn about tolerance and commitment, too. Joined and amply supported by Frank’s usual colorful lowcountry crew—particularly the ancient Miss Sweetie and the magical Millie Smoak—Caroline makes it through this particularly bumpy summer a little wiser and a lot happier. Although a particularly providential accident is necessary to bring about the usual happy ending, this chatty first-person tale of friendship, love and toothsome Southern food shares the appeal of its predecessors.
Family complications and Southern charm bolster a proven formula.