Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Review: On Folly Beach by Karen White

I wasn't sure about this book. Sure, Sally at Park Road Books had recommended it and she never steers me wrong, but it seemed too melodramatic and fluffy for me. But in the end, I really enjoyed it.

There are two parallel stories. In one, it is 1942 on Folly Beach and Maggie and Cat are two cousins in their early 20s, both orphaned, living together with Maggie's little sister Lulu in Maggie's house. Cat was orphaned at a pretty young age so they'd grown up together and Maggie's mother asked her to look after Cat. Cat is already also widowed, as she'd married the handsome Jim, who all three girls were in love with, and he was killed soon after being deployed. Cat, who looks like a pin-up girl, doesn't seem like she needs much looking after, stringing along load of officers. Meanwhile Maggie works at the family store, Folly Finds, a general store with a lot of books.

In 2008, Maggie's daughter-in-law, who has been running Folly Finds as a bookstore for decades, is ready to retire. Emmy lives in Indiana and her husband was recently killed in Afghanistan. Her mother, who is from Folly Beach, runs a bookstore. Emmy has a MLS but is just foundering in her grief, doing next to nothing. Her mother hears that Folly Finds is for sale and pushes Emmy to buy the bookstore and move to South Carolina. She's not so sure, but she looks through a box of old Folly Finds books that her mother bought off eBay, and find intriguing notes written int he margins between a man and a woman, and she's hooked. She buys the bookstore, moves, and begins to investigate the mystery. Which of course is tied back to 1942 and Maggie and Cat, both long dead, and Lulu who is a cranky old woman who sells bottle trees out of the back of the store.

Because of the two storylines there is necessarily a large cast of characters, particularly in the 2008 parts, so it took me a while to get into the book, but once I did, it just flew. I guessed certain things accurately, and others I got the big thing right but how it happened wrong. There were a couple of twists I didn't guess at all (although they were well set up) until I was right on top of them and suddenly realized what was happening. It moved quickly, the South Carolina beach town vibe felt right, and these two stories were not melodramatic or fluffy—they were well-drawn and an interesting side tale of something that might have happened during WWII. I think I will give Ms. White another try! That was thoroughly enjoyable.

I bought this book at an author event at the independent bookstore, Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC.

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