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Full of Grace

Cover of Full of Grace

Full of Grace

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The move from New Jersey to Hilton Head, South Carolina, wasn't easy for the Russo family--difficult enough for Big Al and Connie, but even harder for their daughter Maria Graziella, who insists on being called Grace. At thirty-one and still, shockingly, unmarried, Grace has scandalized her staunchly traditional Italian family by moving in with her boyfriend Michael--who, though a truly great guy, is agnostic, commitment-phobic, a scientist, and (horror of horrors) Irish!

Grace adores her parents even though they drive her crazy--and she knows they'd love Michael if they got to know him, but Big Al won't let him into their house. And so the stage is set for a major showdown--which, along with a devastating, unexpected crisis and, perhaps, a miracle or two, just might change Grace's outlook on love, family, and her new life in the new South.

The move from New Jersey to Hilton Head, South Carolina, wasn't easy for the Russo family--difficult enough for Big Al and Connie, but even harder for their daughter Maria Graziella, who insists on being called Grace. At thirty-one and still, shockingly, unmarried, Grace has scandalized her staunchly traditional Italian family by moving in with her boyfriend Michael--who, though a truly great guy, is agnostic, commitment-phobic, a scientist, and (horror of horrors) Irish!

Grace adores her parents even though they drive her crazy--and she knows they'd love Michael if they got to know him, but Big Al won't let him into their house. And so the stage is set for a major showdown--which, along with a devastating, unexpected crisis and, perhaps, a miracle or two, just might change Grace's outlook on love, family, and her new life in the new South.

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  • Chapter One

    Firecrackers

    Everything Michael just told you is true, but you have to understand our lives in its whole context for this story to make any sense. What happened to us was so unexpected that I think it's worth understanding how we came together and why everything could only have happened as it did.

    So let me take you back to the beginning and, for the moment, offer this singular thought. There are still a few pockets of the earth that transcend the realities of the modern world. To my complete astonishment, the Lowcountry of South Carolina is one of them. No one who knows the area would argue. Not every square inch of it is spiritually uplifting because it's got its commercial sprawl like all cities. But just minutes south of historic Charleston's ageless glories and the plastic outskirts of suburbia, the neon world of consumerism begins to melt away.

    Soon, moving along on Savannah Highway, there is a small rise in the road. Rantowles Creek. The deep blue water is vast, shimmering like fields of sequins, their tiny edges catching flashes of the afternoon light. Every single time I passed over the tiny bridge I would literally gasp with surprise. It was so vibrant with life and naturally beautiful.

    For the trillionth or so time, I wondered why I didn't sublet my carriage house in downtown Charleston, move out here and sink roots in this blue and green paradise. But as soon as I asked myself the question, the answer was on the tip of my tongue. The answer was simple. I was still in the game, running with the ball like my hair was on fire. Besides, I was still too urban. I mean, moving to Charleston had been a concession to my family after decades of living in and around New York, working for a luxury travel service that paid very little but took me everywhere I ever wanted to go: Cambodia, Chile, the Galápagos, Patagonia, Istanbul — dream it up, I can arrange it and you will travel like royalty. It was a niche business, but a very nice niche.

    Eventually, I moved to the Lowcountry. I had been terrified to leave New York and in other ways just as terrified to stay. My family knew it, too. Truly there wasn't much happening in my personal life except the packing and unpacking of luggage. So as usual, my father decided to take the matter of my future into his own lovable hands. He begged me to just try Charleston for a while, and after the big showdown, I finally caved. Here's how that happened.

    He called me one morning and said, "You gonna be home tonight?"

    I said, "Yeah? Who wants to know?"

    "The FBI. Be home at seven and that's it. Don't ask no more questions."

    So without any further hullabaloo, Big Al flew to New York and showed up that night with a sack of Chinese takeout. I opened the door to my apartment on lower Fifth Avenue and there he stood. Delighted to see the man who loved me more than anyone ever had, I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him with all my might. I was a mainlining daddy's girl and not apologetic in the least.

    After a feast of hot-and-sour soup, steamed dumplings, Peking duck, pork lo mein, and a lot of chitchat, he stood up and read his fortune cookie aloud.

    " 'The Buddha sees Big Al's only daughter in Charleston living happily in a carriage house on Wentworth Street that her wonderful father already bought for an investment and will allow her to live in rent-free but she has to pay the utilities.' Humph! Well, what do you say about that, princess?"

    What could I say? Even though I was an adult, I still loved the fact that my dad wanted to spoil me rotten. And that he missed me. The next day I called Eric Bomze, who owned the company I worked for, and who by coincidence had relocated to Charleston after opening another office in...

About the Author-
  • New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

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Full of Grace
Dorothea Benton Frank
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