Capsule reviews

THE HURRICANE SISTERS. By Dorothea Benton Frank. Harper Collins. 326 pages. $26.99.

Who was it who said that all families are dysfunctional? Dorothea Benton Frank's writing seems to affirm this statement as she delves into a South Carolina family's woes in her latest novel 'The Hurricane Sisters'.

The story takes place in Frank's beloved Lowcountry and tells of the ups and downs of three generations of women, led by Maisie, the acerbic 80-year-old grandmother.

Maisie and her daughter, Liz, do not get along, nor does Liz see eye-to-eye with her young daughter, Ashley. There is also Liz's gay son in far-off San Francisco, and her husband, Clayton, who is away from home much of the time working in New York City, which causes problems in the marriage.

Frank offers up a tale full of human dynamics and includes a new theme in this novel: abused women and the denial and misconceptions often involved.

As always, she has a sharp insight into the animosity that often simmers beneath the surface of close-knit families. However, the downside is that conversation seems contrived and without depth, and the reader keeps wondering about the title, "The Hurricane Sisters," which is not explained until the closing pages of the book.

All in all, though, it will be packed in many a beach bag this summer.

Reviewer Frances Monaco is a writer in Charleston.