Book Review: On Folly Beach by Karen White

Title: On Folly Beach
Author: Karen White
Genre: Historical fiction, contemporary fiction
Publisher: NAL Accent
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the author’s publicist
First line: Emmy awoke to the song of the wind in the bottle tree, to the black night and the winter chill, and knew Ben was gone from her the way the moon knows the ocean’s tides.

Emmy is adrift in an ocean of grief when she loses her soldier husband, Ben, in Afghanistan. She is content to live with her parents in Indiana, working in her mother’s bookstore. Her mother, Paige, however, knows that Emmy is stuck, and suggests that Emmy move to Folly Beach and buy her friend, Abigail’s bookstore, Folly’s Finds. At first, Emmy is opposed to the idea, but as she sifts through a box of books Paige purchased from Folly’s Finds, she discovers love notes written in the margins of a few of the books. Intrigued by the mystery, and hoping that a change is what she needs, Emmy heads to Folly Beach, South Carolina.

Abigail has one requirement for Emmy: allow her husband’s elderly aunt Lulu to continue to sell her bottle trees from the yard in back of the store. Lulu is prickly, and Emmy is initially afraid of her, but comes to believe that Lulu is the only one who can answer the question of the love letter writers’ identity.

Alternating with the story of Emmy’s move to Folly Beach is the story of 9-year-old Lulu living in Folly Beach with her older sister, Maggie, and Maggie’s cousin, Cat, during World War II. Maggie and Lulu’s story is slowly revealed, and while it isn’t difficult for the reader to figure out the identity of the lovers who wrote their words of passion in the margins of the books they passed back and forth, the question of how their story would turn out kept me turning the pages late into the night.

I have read a lot of positive reviews for Karen White’s books, and have meant to pick one up for a while now, so was glad for the opportunity to review On Folly Beach. I enjoyed Emmy’s story, and as her curiosity about the mystery of the past grew, mine did as well. There is a strong theme of letting go of the past and finding the strength to go on in spite of loss and grief. The consequences of holding on too long are graphically demonstrated in some of the characters’ lives – as well as the need for finding forgiveness, from oneself as well as from others.

White is terrific at writing setting, and I found myself loving Folly Beach. The historical aspects of the story were new to me, and I was fascinated to read in the author’s note at the end of the book that they were rooted in fact – a part of our country’s history I don’t remember learning before.

The format of alternating past and current story lines worked very well, and I was equally drawn into both stories. This is a great read, and I look forward to picking up more of White’s novels.

(Disclosure: On Folly Beach was provided to me by the author’s publicist for the purpose of review. Many of the links on this site, including the one in this post, are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on any of them and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage in commission.)

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21 Responses to Book Review: On Folly Beach by Karen White

  1. heidenkind says:

    I wish someone would let me buy their used bookstore and solve mysteries!
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh =-.

  2. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads

    When I finally get hold of this I think I am going to be beside myself at the prospect of actually getting to read it myself, instead of just having to see how much everyone else enjoyed it!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Marg – Has it been released in Australia yet? I hope you don’t have to wait too long.

      • Marg
        Twitter: MargReads

        I thinks so, because it has been out for a while. The only other Satrapi book they have is a kids book about Monsters. I think that they are probably just not intending to buy any others. If I remember I will ask them next time I go tot the library.
        .-= Marg´s last blog ..Anya Seton Season at Historical Tapestry =-.

  3. M Light says:

    I’ll definitely need to read this book. We went to Folly Beach for half a week earlier this spring, and it’s not all overdeveloped, over done, or overly expensive the way that many beaches are. I’d love to get more of a sense of the people.
    .-= M Light´s last blog .."Lightheaded" by Mike Dacko =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Laura – I’d love to visit Folly Beach – especially after reading this book!

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    This was one of those books that made me want to crawl inside it. Which one of us would pass up the opportunity to own an indie bookstore at the beach? And solve mysteries about lovers during the war? And fall for a hottie?

    BTW, just so that you know, the thingy at the bottom that is supposed to pull up my latest post is always days late. The post below is from last Friday!!! I didn’t want you to think I was slacking! This happens on other blogs too sometimes. I don’t get it.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Smile – Raina Telgemeir =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – I think it’s a problem with Comment Luv – it does that to me sometimes on other blogs, too. And I agree – I would love to own a little bookstore in a beach community! (Your comment got sent to moderation – I think because you said “hottie” – LOL)

  5. This was my first experience with Karen White’s work, too, and I’m a fan now. Great review.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – it’s like a treat when you find an author you like that has several books out!

  6. Stephanie says:

    The opening line of the book gives me pause–it makes me think maybe this book is a bit too sappy for me. I am glad you enjoyed it though!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..The Sunday Salon =-.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this one and look forward to reading it. I haven’t read any of her books and from what I understand there are quite a few I would enjoy.

  8. I am glad you enjoyed this one, Carrie. I have read a couple of White’s books and l really like her writing style. I just haven’t clicked with her protagonist in those two books, unfortunately. I definitely want to try her other work though. It might be a better fit for me.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..That Long Overdue Reading Day is Here! =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Wendy- you’re not the first person to mention not connecting with the protagonist in the House books by White. I really liked the characters in this one, so maybe it will be a better fit.

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