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.)