ISLE OF PALMS
Honey, you think you've got a dysfunctional family. Anna Lutz Abbot wants you to sit yourself down with a glass of sweet tea and hear all about why her family takes the pound cake. Momma dies in bed (amyl nitrate) with the wrong man when Anna is 10. Daddy is a tightwad who does a better job of looking after other people's kids (he's a pediatrician) than his own. Paternal grandmother Violet is a German martinet who blames Anna when Everett Fairchild drugs, beats, rapes and impregnates her after the prom. Jim Abbot, who gallantly insists on marrying her, is gay, which is fine with Anna except that he's gorgeous as well as perfect and she craves more from him. Toss in Jim's harridan mother and Anna's daughter, Emily, who makes her first appearance in full goth regalia. Frank's brilliant stroke is to give her narrator a voice like nobody else. Oh, Anna's Dixie as all get out, madly in love with the South Carolina Lowcountry, especially the islands off Charleston, but she's no steel magnolia. A perpetually pissed-off curmudgeon is more like it; she actively prays for her grandmother's death and takes a hammer to Everett's Mercedes when he shows up to meet Emily. "You're my birth father, aren't you?" Emily says, in one of the few scenes to lack high drama. (Frank writes at a fever pitch, even when describing the decor of Anna's new hair salon.) The third Lowcountry novel (Sullivan's Island; Plantation) is sure to delight Frank's fans and win new admirers, although the story occasionally staggers under the weight of its mammoth cast. Agent, Amy Berkower.(July)
Forecast:Readers will be happy to pay the extra few dollars for Frank's hardcover debut—she gives readers more than their money's worth. A 20-city author tour is an additional plus for fans.