On Folly Beach by Karen White

book cover of   On Folly Beach   by  Karen White Title:  On Folly Beach
Author:  Karen White
Release date:  May 4, 2010
Publisher:  NAL Trade
Pages:  416
Genre:  Adult fiction, Mystery
Source:  Publisher

Emmy Hamilton has only heard of Folly Beach in stories from her mother before she decides to buy the local bookstore, Folly’s Finds.  She is hoping that moving to a new place and having a new purpose in life will help her move on after the loss of her husband in Afghanistan.  When she arrives at the book store and begins setting in to her new position as owner of the bookstore, she finds a bunch of love letters hidden in old books.  As she sets her mind to unraveling the mystery of what these letters are really about, she realizes that several of her new friends on Folly Beach might be related to the authors, and they might just know how to tie up the loose ends of the mystery within.

I only became familiar with Karen White’s work once I began blogging, but I’ve come to find that she is an excellent mystery writer.  Her mysteries are not simply mysteries – they are often delightful reads with wonderful characters and beautiful writing. On Folly Beach definitely lived up to the expectation I’ve come to have with her books.   This is an absolutely wonderful novel and I think it may be my favorite of Karen White’s so far.

My favorite thing about this novel is, hands down, the sense of place that White conveys with her writing.  I could literally smell the salty ocean air of the beach, visualize the small town where everyone knows everyone else, and I truly felt transported to Folly Beach every time I picked up the novel.  I’ve noticed that White does this particularly well in her books, but On Folly Beach stands out especially in this respect.  Perhaps it’s because I love the idea of beach towns so much, but honestly – the sense of place alone won me over.

Luckily for readers not so infatuated with beach towns as me, there’s more to the novel than the beach itself.  Emmy is a fantastic character who is easy to love, easy to root for, and easy to believe in.  She is destroyed by her husband’s death, yet finds it within her to make a drastic move to another part of the country and start fresh doing something completely new – owning a bookstore.  She discovers the love letters and immediately craves the knowledge of what really happened to the two lovers.  And instead of just being curious about them, she actively searches for answers.  She also quickly makes friends with some of the locals, even developing a possible love interest, and I love that White was able to balance Emmy’s authentic grief with her very real feelings of needing to move on with her life and meet someone new.

The story goes back and forth in time between Emmy’s story in the present day and Maggie’s story in the early 1940’s.  I loved reading Maggie’s story because it was clear that Emmy and Maggie were somehow connected, and the more I read of Maggie’s chapters, the closer I knew I was getting to finding out how.  Maggie was a great character, too, although I’m not sure I liked her as much as I liked Emmy.  I did enjoy the historical aspect of the novel – I am fascinated by stories about civilian life during wartime, and as much of Maggie’s story was related to how the war affected their family, On Folly Beach definitely fit that bill.  And the mystery about her was just icing on the cake!

I’m so happy I’ve continued to read Karen White’s novels because I am just so impressed with her work.  I loved On Folly Beach and I truly can’t recommend it enthusiastically enough!

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20 thoughts on “On Folly Beach by Karen White

  1. You had me at “…decides to buy the local bookstore.” I must admit, that alone pulled me in, then you throw a small beach town on top of it, love letters and a mystery? Check, please! I want to read this one!! I haven’t heard of this author until now, so I’m so on board — if the characters are fully developed and you can also smell the beach just by reading the words, I’m all for it!

    1. I’m sort of surprised you haven’t heard of Karen White before, as she is allllll around the blogosphere… but I hadn’t heard of her until last year so I suppose that makes sense. 😉

      I hope you get the chance to read this one soon!

  2. I keep getting Karen White mixed up with Kate Morton! I know they are different, but I simply cannot keep them straight, and I keep thinking I’ve already read Karen White when really it’s Kate Morton I’ve read. Hrmph. But I want to try Karen White–this sounds like a good one. I think it’s fun when books go back and forth between two different time periods.

    1. I think you’d like Karen White Jenny! I haven’t read Kate Morton – is she the one who wrote The House at Riverton? If so I’ve been meaning to read that book too.

  3. I like this one even more than the house books but my mom says she still likes Legare Street the best of any of White’s books that we’ve read. You’re right–she really knows her stuff when she’s writing about a place and transports the reader there.

    1. Yes, I think I liked this one better than the house books too. But the great thing about the house books is they feature the same characters, and I’m quite attached to Melanie by now. 🙂

  4. I’ve only read her two Tradd St. books, but this is on my wish list as the next one to read. I love that it portrays the sense of place so well. I can live in the south vicariously 🙂

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