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Review: On Folly Beach

May 20, 2010

After Emmy’s husband was killed in Afghanistan, she struggles with her sadness and finds herself at loose ends.  At her mother’s urging, she buys a bookstore in Folly Beach, South Carolina, leaving her native Indiana behind.    When she gets to Folly Beach, she finds that, as part of the purchase agreement, she must continue to allow cranky Lulu (the former owner’s sister) to sell her bottle trees out of the store.

As Emmy goes through boxes of old books she finds in the house she rents and in the store, she discovers some cryptic messages in the margins of many of the books.  Her curiosity is aroused, so she searches through every book and logs the messages she finds into her computer.  Between the notes and some information she gets from Lulu, Emmy begins to piece together a mystery from the 1940’s.  Lulu has diligently kept the mystery a secret for over 60 years, so she initially resists its coming to light, only to discover that the revelation gives her a sense of peace and relief.

On Folly Beach was my first experience with Karen White‘s work and I was captivated right from the start.  The book is written as two parallel stories – one set in 1942 and the other set in the present time. The 1940’s story slowly reveals the mystery that Emmy is trying to solve in the present day.

I enjoyed so many elements of this story – the great characters, the setting (South Carolina’s lowcountry!), the mystery and the history.  I think most readers will enjoy the bookstore setting and the literary references throughout the book.

The characters in this story are well developed and believable.  None of them are perfect, and I couldn’t help but like them in spite of their flaws.  I found myself rooting for Emmy – I wanted her to find some peace so she could move forward with her life.  I even found myself caring about crusty Lulu, because I knew she had a softer side somewhere.

I don’t want to give them away, since they’re a part of the mystery, but I found the historical aspects of the story to be fascinating and after reading the author’s note in the back, I found myself doing a little research after I read On Folly Beach.  I love books that pique my curiosity like that!  There’s also a nice interview with Karen White and some discussion questions at the back of this book.  This wonderful book would make a good bookclub read.

Since this book is set in South Carolina, I’m counting it as part of  The Literary Road Trip.  (As far as I’m concerned, Karen White is an honorary South Carolinian.)

Review copy provided by Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2010 5:32 am

    Sounds like an interesting mystery. I’ve started to notice this book around the blogosphere. I’ll have to keep my eye out for it.

  2. May 20, 2010 6:02 am

    So many people have said this is their first experience with Karen White’s books, yet here I thought EVERYONE read The Girl on Legare Street and the other one in that series! So I jumped all over this one, and I was so glad. It really was the definition of a comfort read for me. I’ll be right in front of the line when she comes out with her next book later this year!

  3. May 20, 2010 6:55 am

    This book has been everywhere lately, and while that bugs me sometimes, this does sound like a good one Kathy; Thanks

  4. May 20, 2010 7:26 am

    With so much of blog love going out for Karen White I think it’s time I tried one of her books 🙂

  5. May 20, 2010 7:55 am

    This is on my list. Nice review!

  6. May 20, 2010 8:04 am

    I have been waiting to read one of her books for ages, but they are slow to come out over here. I am glad to hear this one is good too. I like a good mystery.

  7. May 20, 2010 8:14 am

    I would love to own a bookstore like Emmy!

    Sounds like an interesting book! I like books that have a bit of historical element in them without being totally historical. It’s interesting how an author can build a connection between the present and the past. Sounds like a good read!

  8. May 20, 2010 8:19 am

    I’ve been thinking of getting this one. I had a bit of trouble with her Tradd Street books, but I think this one is more my style.

  9. May 20, 2010 8:24 am

    Enjoyed the review and you have definitely peeked my interest in this book. I’m adding it to my wish list. Thanks.

    Thoughts in Progress

  10. May 20, 2010 8:30 am

    Ooo! I didn’t know this was set in South Carolina’s lowcountry! Being from NC, I’ve spent quite a few vacations there. That, and the fact that you liked it so much, makes me very interested in this book. Great review!

  11. May 20, 2010 8:44 am

    I adored this book. Thanks for the great review.

  12. May 20, 2010 8:50 am

    I loved this one as well! My review is up today too! Thanks for participating in the Literary Road Trip!

  13. May 20, 2010 9:29 am

    I have yet to see a bad review for this book. I think I may have to pick up a copy of this soon. I love it when a bookstore is part of the setting. A bookstore is one of my favorite places to be!

  14. May 20, 2010 9:34 am

    Fantastic review. I’m definitely going to have to read this one!

  15. May 20, 2010 10:28 am

    This was my first Karen White as well, and wow! Fast-paced and fun, I loved it! Thanks for the review- I felt similarly about it 🙂

  16. May 20, 2010 10:48 am

    Thank you for this review…its definitely going on my tbr list. Great review!!

  17. May 20, 2010 10:50 am

    Kathy, I am reading this one right now, and I agree with your assessment. It’s really engrossing and I am having a hard time putting it down! Great review and I am glad you liked it. It is a really great read!

  18. May 20, 2010 10:55 am

    This sounds really interesting! I’ve seen the title a few places, but this is the first review that has really caught my attention. Thanks – I’ll be adding this to my TBR pile.

  19. May 20, 2010 11:10 am

    I also love books that send me googling!

  20. May 20, 2010 11:38 am

    I was already interested in reading this book before I read your review but now I know I really want to read this book! Like you, I love books that make me curious about the subject matter of the story and when I’m finished I want to further my knowledge about what I’ve read. It’s great to read an enjoyable book and be educated about something new at the same time.

    So glad you enjoyed Karen White’s book!

    ~ Amy

  21. Let's Read permalink
    May 20, 2010 12:04 pm

    Karen White,is getting a lot of praise…wonderful review as always..the story sounds very interesting and unique..

  22. May 20, 2010 12:27 pm

    This sounds like such a good book, one of those great reads that I’m just never going to get around to.

  23. May 20, 2010 12:34 pm

    Terrific review–what else is new?!

    Kathy, this sounds very much like a book I’d enjoy. I often enjoy fiction in a Southern setting, and am absolutely intrigued by the Carolinas. Enjoy your “road trip”. 🙂

  24. May 20, 2010 1:10 pm

    This one soundsf like it’s my cup of tea. I like well developed characters and stories that make me think and hitting my google search key.

  25. May 20, 2010 2:27 pm

    i’ve been wanting to read this book since i read meg’s review. but this just wants me to read it right now! sounds like a really great book.

  26. May 20, 2010 3:02 pm

    I tend to like books with parallel plots set in different time periods. I’ll keep this one in mind.

  27. May 20, 2010 3:23 pm

    Terrific review, Kathy! I think I might enjoy this one. Thanks.

  28. May 20, 2010 4:19 pm

    I’ve already added this to my list on Goodreads based on some other reviews. I’m looking forward to reading this one and some of her others. I’m like you and haven’t read any of her other work.

  29. May 20, 2010 4:27 pm

    This sounds pretty good. Thanks!

  30. May 20, 2010 8:38 pm

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this book! I can now say Karen White is one of my favourite authors because I just love her writing style, and not to mention her stories are always a great read IMO. 🙂

  31. May 20, 2010 9:20 pm

    A friend just loaned me this one. I had been planning to buy and read it when we go to Folly Beach this summer but I guess I am meant to read it sooner!

    She just came to Beaufort for a lunch/book signing but I couldn’t go.

  32. May 20, 2010 9:36 pm

    I’m so glad that you were captivated by this one too!! A favorite for 2010 for sure.

  33. May 20, 2010 11:22 pm

    I’m so glad you liked this one. I hope you read more of Karen White’s books. This was the 4th I’ve read, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

    I’ll get this linked to the WWII book reviews page on War Through the Generations.


  34. May 20, 2010 11:29 pm

    You know I was reading this review without realizing it was the same author as the House on Tradd Street for some reason. I think it sounds great, what with the mystery and history and all. Really great review!

  35. May 21, 2010 8:27 am

    Hmm, a bookstore, Low Country, good story — what else could I want?

  36. May 21, 2010 12:09 pm

    This sounds fantastic! I own one of her books, but am sad to say that I haven’t read it yet. If I didn’t love my abundance of books so much I’d say I own too many of them. I’m sure I’ll find some time for it someday though. 🙂

  37. May 21, 2010 3:26 pm

    Oh , this sounds like such a good book! I think I will add it to my wishlist. Great characters, books with writing in margins and mystery seem like the perfect combination!

  38. May 21, 2010 5:44 pm

    This sounds really, really interesting! How fun to find writing in the margins of books and be able to piece it all together like that. I love books that deal with two vantage points of modern times and the past, so I might really enjoy this one! Thanks!

  39. May 22, 2010 8:50 am

    Ooh! What a lovely cover! Thanks for the review!

  40. May 23, 2010 12:48 am

    I’ve been seeing this title around the blogosphere but hadn’t investigated it yet. Sure glad I read your review! This is definitely a book I want to read – especially since I’ve been dreaming about a little bookstore by the sea of my very own.

  41. May 23, 2010 2:47 pm

    The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it. I love White’s writing style.

  42. May 23, 2010 10:38 pm

    Awesome review. I just read Jenn’s from Jenn’s bookshelves. I am a bit out of the loop, but I’d read and buy this in a heartbeat.

  43. May 29, 2010 3:09 am

    All right. All right. I can’t resist this any longer. I need to hunt down all of Karen White’s books and read them. Thanks for the review, Kathy!

  44. May 31, 2010 12:59 pm

    I haven’t read anything by KarenWhite. Maybe it’s about time, huh?

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