Review: On Folly Beach
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.)