I picked up On Folly Beach by Karen White when it was a Kindle daily deal because I love White’s Tradd Street series. I was in the mood for a beach read, but boy, did I get more than I bargained for in this parallel timeline women’s fiction novel.
The Premise of On Folly Beach
On Folly Beach by Karen White starts off with a bang and never stops. It opens when the heroine, Emmy, awakes in her bed in Indiana sensing her husband, a soldier in Afghanistan, has just been killed. Emmy is sensitive to these types of things and immediately escapes outside to her mother’s bottle tree.
Newly widowed, Emmy has a chance to take over the local bookstore on Folly Beach, South Carolina, and her mother encourages her to go as a way to climb out of her grief. Emmy has no intention of staying until she finds hidden messages in the books of the original store owner. (You’re hooked already too, right??? Yeah, so was I!)
Y’all, I did not know anything about bottle trees before now, but you better believe I’m making room in the yard for one right now! Legend has it that the bottle trees keep out bad spirits and protect those that are near it from evil. They play a prominent role in this book, and I love the overlay of mysticism carried through out the story from Emmy’s sensitivity to the supposed powers of bottle trees.
In the contemporary timeline as I mentioned, you have Emmy, our heroine. There’s also Lulu, the sister of the original store owner. Lulu is one of those characters that you want to consume with a spoon and a little whipped cream.
Lulu exists between timelines, and she’s the key to the entire secret, only she’s not telling anyone nothing. She pours her heart and soul into her bottle trees, which is a brilliant dichotomy to her hard-edged, sassy personality. But Emmy must learn how to be friends with the woman if she’s to learn what happened to the original store owner, Maggie.
While Emmy is solving mysteries, the 1942 timeline is ready for take off into WWII. I had no idea this was a World War II story or else I would have read it much earlier. (I’m hearing a lot from people that they’re tired of reading WWII stories, but you really need to give this one a try. WWII is not the point of the story. It’s just the backdrop.)
What’s fresh about this book is it tackles the subject of spies infiltrating the US and German submarines coming right up to the East coast of the US. On Folly Beach takes the story to a personal level when Maggie, Lulu, and their cousin, Catherine, get entwined in a plot they cannot even imagine.
I don’t want to say any more because it will give away too many spoilers, so here’s my quick cheat sheet:
On Folly Beach was strikingly unlike White’s other works that I have read to date. Emmy carries real pain that I thought I could almost reach out and touch. Lulu is not a likable character, not even in a curmudgeonly way. She carries some dark secrets, and you’re left wondering what the heck as you stare at her in utter admiration. This story is so human it cannot be missed.