Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Folly Beach - Karen White


I'd like to take a poll, to ask if anyone besides myself suffers from the pathological drive to over-extend myself. I seem to need to put myself through this, regardless of where I am in my life. I don't work outside the home anymore, so you'd think I was free of the disease. No, it has slithered its way into my volunteerism and my blogging, specifically with accepting review copies from publishers and authors. Weeks ago, I promised myself that I should read what I have, and accept no more additional commitments. Then I received an e-mail about "On Folly Beach". Some things must not be ignored. Who am I to fight it?

The story centers on Emmy, whose husband has recently been killed in Afghanistan. Although she can't seem to get past her grief, and at the urging of her mother, moves from Indiana to a barrier island in South Carolina called Folly Beach. She has taken her savings and purchased a family-owned bookstore in the attempt to occupy her thoughts and start over. She is immediately embraced by the family selling her the bookstore, including the happy-go-lucky and, oh by the way, handsome Heath (named after Heathcliff...this is a literary family after all!). She does not immediately bond with old Aunt Lulu, who by contract, must be allowed to continue to design and sell "bottle trees" from the back courtyard of the store.

While perusing some old family book collections looking for first editions and rare collectibles, she begins to notice mysterious notes in the margins of some of them. Seemingly, they appear to be secret messages back and forth between a man and a woman in the early 1940's. An illicit affair? Emmy begins to ask questions of Aunt Lulu, who was a little girl during that time in history, and gets more than she bargains for. The questions reopen a wound from Lulu's youth that have devastating potential.

The story goes back and forth in time, between Emmy's life in 2009, and 1942, in the middle of WWII on Folly Beach. We meet Lulu as a 9 year-old, her older sister Maggie, who is her guardian since the death of their parents and the owner of the bookstore, and their recently widowed cousin Cat. Food is rationed, blackouts enforced at night, and servicemen are enjoying the shag dancing and entertainment Folly has to offer. Maggie meets the dashing Peter, an immigrant from Poland, and falls in love. But as foreshadowed by Lulu's reticence in 2009, things don't go as planned, and end in a tragic climax at the Morris Island lighthouse.

I know that was a rather long synopsis, but I had a point to make. Look at all the highlighted words. When I was reading about the book in the e-mail from the publicist, these were really the only words I saw. The rest was just noise. How often are you offered an opportunity to review a book that literally touches on nearly every passion you have in life? Additionally, Karen White has a reputation amongst the bloggers...great writing, atmosphere, intrigue, romance. Plus she is just an all-around nice person.

My opinion? Wondering when I am going to get around to that? I loved it. It would be hard to find a book with more atmosphere. It is enough to place a book in the loving arms of a beach community in the Carolinas. (Just read Pat Conroy's Beach Music or Prince of Tides.) But adding to that an indie bookstore? The mystique of the bottle trees, an old African tradition, warding off evil spirits? Lovers' notations in the margins of Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby, Around the World in 80 Days? It really doesn't get any better. It all made my heart very warm and fuzzy.

There were a a few niggling issues that I had, and to be fair, I feel I need to mention them. When I close my eyes, I cannot conjure up an image of Emmy. Her age, her hair color, her stature. Perhaps these details were all there but passed me by, I don't know. Because of this, I always felt like I was missing a puzzle piece. There were some predictable moments in the story as well. This is not necessarily a fatal flaw, but appreciate an author who will pull the rug out from under me!

The underlying message from the story, however, is one that really resonated with me, and is reflected over and over again within its pages. When you are grieving, over a lost love, a loved one who has passed, or an opportunity missed, how do you know when it has been long enough? This question is answered in this quote, spoken to Emmy by her mother:

"When you realize that love doesn't have a time span. Only pain does. I think sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two, so we just hold on to both of them like they're inseparable."

Stay tuned for a guest post from Karen White this Thursday!


4.5 out of 5 stars




24 comments:

Melody said...

Great review, Sandy! I'm currently reading this book and am enjoying it!

tagskie said...

Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi! http://www.arts-and-entertainment.info

Molly said...

Yes, I suffer from that chronic disease myself!

I am glad that your illness afforded you the opportunity to review such a great book :)

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I am reading this now and really loving it. It had me up last night way past my bedtime. A lot of times with book these days it is hard for me to get a sense of the character. It's almost like a style to not give character descriptions and it drives me crazy.

Kaye said...

Wow, does this sound good! A lot of those highlighted words would get to me too. Maybe not Poland, but I can see where it would grab you by the heart. Not getting a clear pic in my head of the character would be a little minus for me.

JoAnn said...

I can see why you couldn't say no to this one!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I, too would have a hard time passing this one up. Very nice review. It sounds good, although I too like to get a visual of the characters.

bermudaonion said...

I skimmed your synopsis and skipped down to your opinion since this will be my next read, because I'm going to a Book Your Lunch event for Karen White next Wednesday!!!! Can you tell I'm excited that you loved the book and that I'm going to the lunch?

Danette Haworth said...

Sandy,
I'm swooning at just the synopsis. It sounds wonderful!

Literary Feline said...

It's hard to say no when it's a book you really want to read, isn't it?

I've read two books by Karen White and enjoyed them. I do like her writing and should really try something else by her. My small quibble with the books I've read is a conflict (my own issue) with characters--and since that's a series, it probably wouldn't apply to her stand alone books.

Thank you for your great review, Sandy.

Zibilee said...

I have this one in my TBR stack and will be reviewing it soon. It sounds lovely and I just know that I am going to have a great time with it. I am so glad that it was such a great read for you and I loved your review! I will have to come back to it again after I have finished!

Nymeth said...

You are definitely not alone, Sandy! But thanks to that tendency you found a great book, so not all is lost ;)

Kathleen said...

Hello, my name is Kathleen and I suffer from the pathological need to over extend myself! LOL...but as far as the book goes, it sounds really good. I have always been fascinated by lighthouses and thought it would be cool to live in one so just that word alone got my attention! I look forward to the guest post with Karen.

Iliana said...

How can I resist a character that opens a bookstore! Looking forward to your author guest post!

Jenners said...

I'm a slacker in pretty much all areas of my life so I can't relate too much. I admire you though.

And I'm glad you explained the highlighted words ... I knew it must have something to do with your life and loves ... but I wasn't sure at first.

Alyce said...

I do the same thing in my life with saying yes to too many things. I've been much better this year about review copies, but am not yet cured. :)

Andreea said...

Great review, Sandy. I love the quote, it's very emotional!

Serena said...

Great review, and no you are not the only one over-extending despite pledges to the contrary! I have this book to review as well and cannot wait to delve more deeply into it.

S. Krishna said...

I really enjoyed this one as well. Great review.

Beth F said...

LOL!! I noticed the highlighted words and thought "This is a Sandy book!" I cannot resist books that are meant for me either.

Anna said...

I'm almost done with this one. I'm enjoying it, too, but like you, I don't recall any physical description of Emmy. Also like you, I've pretty much stopped accepting review copies, but when I see WWII, it's so hard to say no.

I've linked to your review on the Book Reviews: WWII page on War Through the Generations.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Alice Teh said...

I've read so many great reviews about this book. Thank you for yours! I'm heading over to the guest post now. :D

CLM said...

I agree, it is so hard to say no, and I often find that in addition to all the things I promised to do, I am also taking care of things others promised to do (not because I am a masochist but because other innocent parties will suffer if I don't step up). I had a boss once who used to say, "When you want something done, find a busy woman!" I realize now how true it is.

Marg said...

I have only read one book from this author but I absolutely loved it. I would totally have said yes to this one too! Sounds like I am going to have to read more from Karen White.