Thursday, May 27, 2010

On Folly Beach - Book Review

I once vacationed on Folly Beach in South Carolina with one of my greatest friends, along with her parents and another family which I had never met. This trip was offered up to me hot-casserole-style just a couple of weeks after the 11th hour cancellation of our wedding, but you already know that story.

Suffice it to say - I needed to get the heck out of Dodge. So I went, and I brought a bucket full of memories home with me including the vague hilarity of a comment Melanie's Dad made whilst driving car-bound for hours on end. I cannot for the life of me remember what he said, or even the general theme. But I do remember it being the funniest thing ever, and that notion alone makes me want to laugh one more time.

What I'm trying to say is, how could I not read On Folly Beach?

I was sucked in from the very first page, with this: "But now the keening of the wind through the colored bottles bled through her bones and flashed behind her eyes like a newsreel, illuminating the one thing she'd never wanted to know."

It turns out I'm a pretty easy sell. Feed me a juicy simile and I'm yours for the next 300 pages.

The story alternates between Emmy, a modern-day Indiana transplant seeking escape from the recent loss of her husband; and a pair of sisters, Maggie and Lulu, in the 1940's during World War II. The characters are linked through dusty boxes of beloved books...books that just so happen to have clandestine love notes scrawled in the margins. As Emmy willingly hurls herself through that trapdoor and into the past, her grief begins to loosen its grip and she finds hope in the life she has now.

At the risk of exposing my simple mind, I will say that this era-tripping worried me a little right out of the gate. Alas, I reminded myself that I survived and grew to love "The Time Traveler's Wife" and soldiered on.

The author, Karen White did a fantastic job of building momentum as the stories progressed and ultimately stitched them together in such a way that while each story stood on its own merit, the convergence of the two was even more compelling.

The chapter lengths were ideal (this is of utmost importance to me for reasons I cannot fully explain) and the historical aspects were laid out with detailed restraint. For a girl such as myself, fiction with a historical bent can, at times, become drudgery. In this case, however, I found myself trying hard to picture these girls...their hairstyles, their home, their bookstore. I imagined the handsome soldiers and wondered what life was really like "back then". I harkened myself right back to the Folly Beach Pier and felt lottery-lucky to learn after all this time and in this way, that those boards were once danced upon by the likes of Maggie and Cat. The history was the story here, rather than being mixed in with a heavy hand and an unwieldy spoon, as I've seen so many times before.

I grew to care about the characters - or at least, to care about what would come of them. In the end, I felt that there was a significant question that went mostly unanswered, but I can handle a loose end or two. I've decided that it can be a good thing to be left wondering - it supports the delusional tendency I have to choose to believe that characters of a great book are real. That maybe one day I'll run into someone who knew Cat later in life and can fill me in on what I missed.

As Karen White painted the pictures and left me guessing, I stole away in search of answers. I found myself ignoring late-night burning eyes and turning the page, again and again. What more could be said of a novel, really?


  1. Ya know what drives me crazy? A reference to a cancelled wedding thing that I was supposed to know about, but I don't know about, but there isn't a link.
    I know I've found treasures like, "Merry Christmas Dumpster Rat!" by digging through your old posts, but there's so many, and I'm so sleepy so can you throw me a bone here?
    P.S. You are crazy....ideal chapter lengths?
    This post cracked me up.

  2. Okay, I think you just provided me with my next literary fix. Have you read Outlander? I'm on book 5 of the page turning, nail-biting historical/time traveler series.

  3. I've never heard of Folly Beach-the book or the place. This one's going right on my summer read list. By the way, I have a box of stuff I'm going to send off to you'uns hopefully next week. It includes a book for you.

  4. this sounds like it could be a perfect read for me...and i just finished a book!
    thank you!!

  5. I am putting this book on my to-read list. I love a book where I am left wanting to know more about the characters' later lives. Now I am off to read the story of the canceled wedding....hope the link works or I will be back with a whine in my voice! Have a great weekend Shannan... your posts are a staple in my days and I really look forward to your blog. xoxo

  6. This is soooo perfect, I'm headed to S.C. later today, and I have nothing to do for the 12 hour car trip, I'm going to run out and get this book. I sure hope I can still read in the car:) Barb

  7. i've been looking for a good novel... thank you! farmgirl, would you like to come for tea? we seem to have so much in common... bless you. e.

  8. I love a good novel. Thanks for the heads up!

    p.s. I got my paper bead necklace in the mail last week, swooney! (sp?)

  9. Hey, we just went to Folly Beach last month on our trip South! Cute spot.
    I struggled with Time Traveler's Wife, and in fact, did not finish it. I hate not finishing a book.
    I wonder if I'll read anything this summer, since my nightly reading time is currently spent watching FNL - must get season two, because I don't think I can bear a night without Coach and young Mr. Riggins.
    Who's your fave?

  10. I'm so glad I have a new summer book to read!

  11. Very intriguing! I do not read much - Mostly only Nicholas Sparks books when I do read ... or my Bible.

    My husband makes fun of me because he is a huge reader with a very broad vocabulary and says things all the time that I'm looking up on

    You two would get along just fine.


    I <3 - but being a reader is on my list, along with finding my green thumb and taking a pee by my self... some day.

    I really hate it when he gives me a "word for the week" and he tells me to use it in a sentence through the week. Burns me!

    I just glare at him.

    Well anyhow, thanks for sharing this book and have a great weekend!

    Hugs, The Lady of the House

  12. I just started "The Memory of Water" by Karen White and have the one you mentioned on my list of books to read this summer. I also picked up an Elizabeth Berg book(can't remember the name right now) after you mentioned her in one of your posts. Do you have a favorite by her?

  13. I hope I'm not intruding---but I'm the author of ON FOLLY BEACH, Karen White, and I came across your post as I googled my name (procrastinating, as usual).

    I wanted to write to you and compliment you on your extraordinarly well-written review! I mean, have you considered taking up writing professionally?? I loved your 'unwieldy' spoon reference and several others. Kudos!

    PS I LOVED Outlander and the rest of the series--they are what got me started writing.

  14. I am putting that on my summer reading list!!! Have you read the Outlander series?? As a Christian I will warn that it has a lot of questionable moral value and disturbing situations. That being said it is one of my favorite series ever. Well worth the read, you will fall in love with the characters.:)

  15. Oooo--looks like a good one, friend! I might pick that one up :)
    Happpy weekend-

  16. WOW, sounds good. I will definitely have to put it on my Summer Reading List.

  17. I had no idea about the two weddings!! What a story! I read the entire post then came back to finish this one. I LOVE contemporary stories with an historical aspect to them (history nerd)... I recommend Susan Meissner's White Picket Fences and The Shape of Mercy if you think you might enjoy that sort of thing.

    This one sounds ideal!! :) Can't wait to check it out!

  18. First off, I know exactly what you mean by ideal chapter lenghts. It's especially important when you have little ones running around, but you'd like to read just a little more, OR, you're super tired and just want a few more tidbits from the book! Next, we've made 3 batches of sun tea so far this year. It is a major weakness of ours (Clinton and me). I have to say though, that Clinton requires a lot more sugar in his. My first memory of sun tea was drinking it at the Hensels when our backyards backed up to each other. Hope you enjoyed your long weekend.

  19. Yes, I now see that I switched some letters in "lengths", and I'm anal enough to comment that I see it! I cna't hlep ti!!!!

  20. I will add this to our Bookclub ideas. Thanks for the review!!

  21. Wow, Shannan! The author reviewed your review! See... you have a gift!

    Jody was telling me about this book. I was thinking that it sounded too deep for this time in my life(high maintenance baby). But maybe I'll look into it after all.

    P.S. I'm with you on the ideal chapter lengths!!

  22. Thanks for the recommendation, it will help me in my goal of relaxing this summer by reading, reading, reading for fun!

    By the way- It is some of the highest points in my week to see that you commented on my blog...I know that makes me a dork, but oh well, I am what I am :)

  23. Karen White just commented on your blog. Did you hear me?!
    you know publishers pay big bucks for fantastic endorsements like yours. Keep those book reviews coming! One day I might just find the time to read one. Oh glorious day that will be!

  24. Your review brought a smile to my face. What more can I say? Thanks so much for being on this tour!