Dorothea Benton Frank may be one of the most successful Lowcountry literary figures who doesn't actually live in the Lowcountry. Her twelfth book, Porch Lights, was, like most of her work, a love song to her childhood home of Sullivan's Island and its cultural past.
So when speaking about her upcoming event from her home in New Jersey, Frank sounds giddy in anticipation of the trip.
"I like to do [Piccolo] because I get to come home," she says over the phone. "I think a lot of people know I live here because I'm married to a Yankee, and what am I going to do about that? His business is here, otherwise we'd be in Charleston."
Frank says her husband loves to pester her about rotting their brains spending so much time on the South Carolina coast, a playful jeering about the slower pace of life in the South. But by the third day of their trip, they're walking down the beach, holding hands and thinking about how they couldn't possible leave again.
Frank's marriage has withstood these compromises on location and the rest of life's unforeseen complications, which makes for an interesting backdrop of her new novel.
The Last Original Wife, set to be released in June, deals with salacious issues surrounding mid-life divorce. While some elements of the story come from factual events, Frank is quick to preface that the story is not about her life.
"A lot of my friends up here have said, 'My god, your marriage is in the best shape it's been for as long as I've known you, and here you come with this screaming book'," Frank laughs. She knows, however, it will resonate with many people of a similar age.
"I think this is classic, the classic middle age story."
The book opens with a couple who, after many years of marriage, are seeking individual counseling for their relationship. The idea for therapy stems from Wesley, who was shocked after his wife, Lesley, left him. Though from the onset, it is obvious Wes' shock was misplaced.
"I think this is a story where a woman looks in a mirror and says, 'I have 20 years left to live and how do I want to spend it? Do I want to spend it with this person?'"
Frank is expecting a lot of feedback from the new work, and is happy to kick it off with the discussion during Spoleto. Don't expect a lot of lecturing. Frank will open the floor for questions early, an opportunity for anyone with burning intrigue for the Southern envoy.
Piccolo Spoleto Literary Festival. Dorothea Benton Frank. May 29 at 3 p.m. $36. Charleston Library Society, 164 King St.