ON FOLLY BEACH is the third Karen White book I've read in recent months, although it's the first stand alone novel of hers I've read. What draws me to her books is not only the locale of South Carolina's Low Country, but her easy writing style, intriguing stories and interesting characters she introduces to me. All of those things add up to a great read in my opinion.
Another great thing about this book is that it cleverly tells more than one story. Its the story of Emmy, a recent widow whose husband has been killed in Afghanistan while serving his country; its the story of Lulu, a woman who has lived on Folly Beach for more than seventy years and who has harbored secrets almost as long; but this is also Lulu's sister, Maggie's story from a tumultuous time in our nation's history, when there was a lot of uncertainty and fear during World War II. This is a story of love, loss. loyalty and betrayal that spans more than sixty years and impacts several people's lives in many different ways. And the best thing of all is that the common denominator in the telling of all of these stories is books. I love stories about books and Ms. White has used the vehicle of books to carefully craft and intertwine these women's stories and brings them beautifully together by the end.
The way she lays out this story using chapters to alternate between 2009, where we meet Emmy after the loss of her husband and 1942, in the telling of Maggie and Lulu's story was fantastic. When Emmy reluctantly leaves her Indiana life behind to move to Folly Beach, South Carolina, a place she's never been before, to buy an old bookstore, she had no idea how it would change her life.
Emmy's discovery of secret messages written in the margins of old books found at Folly's Finds, the bookstore she bought sight unseen, starts her on a journey that not only fascinates her but also forces her to see things about her own life she is resistant to. As time goes on, Emmy worries that the further she delves into these secrets and begins to figure out who wrote the messages, the more danger of hurting the very people who have been so warm and kind to her since moving to Folly Beach.
Not only did I love the way in which the story unfolded and the characters, I was also intrigued by the story of how the war affected those living along the eastern seaboard and the Duquesne spy ring that could have changed the outcome of the war. The historical element in this book had me completely drawn in. It sparked a curiosity in me to know more about events that I have to admit, I knew nothing about from my American History classes. Some of my favorite books are the ones that not only entertain me but get me to thinking and make me want to learn more. And thats what this book did for me.
ON FOLLY BEACH is one of the best books I've read this year. Although I've read the two books in the Tradd Street Series, I haven't read her other stand alone novels but I plan to change that very soon. For more information about Karen White and her books, visit her website. There is so much information there, including an excerpt from the book. I can't encourage you enough to read this beautifully told story. You won't be disappointed.
Update 5/16/2010 - There's another great review of this book over at my friend Anna's blog, Diary of an Eccentric that is worth reading. You can find it here. Also, if you like to win a copy of ON FOLLY BEACH for yourself, she's hosting a giveaway until May 20th, so you still have time to enter. Click here for more details and to enter.
Author: Karen White
Publisher: New American Library/Penguin Publishing Group
Published: May 4, 2010
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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