On Folly Beach by Karen White

Karen White‘s On Folly Beach shifts between two time periods — 2009 and 1942 — and between two women’s lives — Emmy Hamilton and Lulu.  Emmy lost her husband six months ago to the war in Afghanistan and loves solving mysteries with old documents and books, and Lulu is a complicated older woman with a lot of secrets and a penchant for bottle tree artistry.

“The shirt was a poor substitute for his arms, and wearing it in Ben’s absence was something her mother had told her was like swimming with a raincoat.”  (page 2)

Emmy is empty in her grief and unwilling to move on, but her mother convinces her to move from Indiana to South Carolina and buy a bookstore, Folly’s Finds, which served as the model for her mother’s bookstore.  Once in her newly rented house, she meets Lulu, her grandson Heath, Heath’s mother Abigail, and the rest of the family.  But her journey begins with a box of old books, and she strives to unravel the mystery of two star-crossed lovers.  Emmy has a journey back to the living to embark upon as well.

“‘Like right now? Don’t you need a bathing suit?’

He smiled and the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes reminded Emmy of his mother.  ‘Don’t need one.’  He walked past her, then stopped when he realized she wasn’t following him.

‘I’ll wait here.’

“I’ll keep my shorts on, promise.'”  (page 129)

White’s characters have their own personalities and evolve carefully over the alternating chapters.  The WWII chapters transport readers back in time, making the fear of war as vivid as the dances on the ocean pier.  But with the prevalence of chapters in the present, it is clear that this is Emmy and Lulu’s story. Emmy becomes the amateur detective that Lulu played when she was a young girl living with her sister, Maggie and cousin Cat.

On Folly Beach by Karen White uses a variety of water and wind imagery to mimic the foolish choices made by the main characters and mirror the dramatic choices that they make out of loyalty and love.  White creates dynamic characters who are deeply flawed and who are in search of peace and love, like many of us.  Bibliophiles will enjoy the literary references, the characters named for Elizabeth Bennet and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, and the quotes in the margins.  Another Karen White novel that engages, mystifies, and satisfies readers as they unwind the puzzles of On Folly Beach.

Please check out the rest of the stops on the tour. And check back tomorrow for a guest post on Karen White’s writing space.

About the Author:

Karen’s novel The Memory of Water was a WXIA-TV Atlanta & Company Book Club Selection. Her work has been reviewed in Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, the Atlanta  Journal-Constitution, and by Fresh Fiction, among many others, and has been adopted by numerous independent booksellers for book club recommendations. Last year her 2007 novel Learning to Breathe received several honors, notably the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Booksellers’ Best Award, which in 2009 was again presented to Karen, this time for The Memory of Water.

US/Canada Giveaway for 2 copies of On Folly Beach by Karen White:

1.  Leave a comment about what historical period fascinates you and why.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a link.

Deadline May 20, 2010, at 11:59PM EST.


  1. Historical period I love in the Antebellum period in the south. I know there is a lot of controversial around this period but the social dynamic and the architectural elements in this time are interesting and wonderfully made.

    Thanks for the giveaway… I am following via Google reader

  2. I am most fascinated by the historical period of the US Civil War. Tracing my family tree and finding that I had several ancestors who fought in the Civil War sparked my interest in the period.

    Please enter me in this giveaway!

  3. I’m so looking forward to reading this book.
    I love to escape to a different time in historical fiction.

    Thank you for entering me!

    lisa.2713 at gmail dot com

  4. Debra Dufek says

    I enjoy reading novels dated during the King Arthur period. I also like to read novels that take place during the Civil War. What a tough time for the USA. Please enter me!
    Thank you!

  5. Sandra K321 says

    I enjoy the period of the civil war. The people there faced so many hardships and it was a time period for the US that was very tragic.

  6. As an historical fiction fanatic, there are so many periods and places in history that I love. WWI and II, War of the Roses, the Tudors, the list goes on and on.

    This sounds like such a lovely book and I would love to win.

    teddyr66 at yahoo dot com

  7. i like the 90’s. fresh perspective, can relate to things. its easy reading on the mind! 🙂

    i would love to win this pls . thanks.
    .-= Keyomi´s last blog .. =-.

  8. Julie H. says

    It sounds like a great book. The WWII time period has always been a fave, but I find the slightly more historical (like Victorian or Tudor England) more interesting because I’m more curious about how they lived. Thanks for the chance to win!

  9. I really enjoyed this book, and those bottle trees are beautiful. I didn’t expect the numerous literary references, so that was a treat.

    No need to enter me; I’ve added the giveaway to my sidebar, though.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Review: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann =-.

  10. I love the quotes you included in your review! I see why everyone is raving. 🙂 Karen White seems to be quite talented. I’ve *got* to check out her books!

    Thanks for being on this tour!

  11. I actually find the 1940’s and ’50’s fascinating. So much stress & headache during the War with many folks (like my parents) separated and wondering what’s happening with each other. I recall my father being fascinated by the Kuwait war — that was the era of Arthur the Scud Stud. And he would sit in his chair for hours. Having served in WWII, he couldn’t believe he was watching things blow up in real time. After the War . . . so much hope and prosperity. I’ve always wondered what it must have felt like to be an adult then.
    .-= JHS´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister =-.

  12. Love the cover of this book! I love all types of historical fiction – I guess my favorite is biblical time period…

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com
    .-= Mozi Esmes Mommy´s last blog ..Learning Spaces: Do You, or Don’t You? =-.

  13. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway.
    I like books that take place in the 30s and 40s.

  14. This book sounds wonderful. I enjoy books with a connection to the 1940s, but my favorite era to read about is the American Civil War, the tragedy of brother against brother, the horrible institution of slavery, the courage of so many soldiers, the ironies in so many situations. the magnificent leaders like Lincoln and Lee.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  15. Your reviews are getting better and better – this one is just fantastic! I should finish this book today and I’m just loving it.

  16. I can’t wait to read this one! (I already have a copy on my shelf.) Great review!
    .-= Tricia´s last blog ..The Double Comfort Safari Club =-.

  17. This is one of my favorite books this year! No need to enter me in the giveaway – just wanted to say Great Review!!
    .-= Lisa (Books and Cooks)´s last blog ..On Folly Beach by Karen White =-.

  18. This was such a charming book. It seemed to touch on just about topic that gets my attention. Loved it!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010) =-.

  19. I’m sooooo want to read this book ! i’ve been waiting for next book from this author. After i had been introduced to two books of hers by another author.

    1. what historical period fascinates you and why ?
    ==> Victorian era and Regency Era, there so much happened on those two eras.
    – The serial killer known as Jack the Ripper murdered and mutilated five prostitutes on the streets of London on Victorian Era
    – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is published on Regency Era

    i tweeted : http://twitter.com/becunique/status/13896996853

  20. I knew that this touched on issues to do with WWII, but didn’t realise that it had flashbacks! I love those kinds of books. I have only read one of this authors books before but I really liked it so I am looking forward to reading this one.

    Don’t worry about entering me in the draw for this one as I have a copy on it’s way to me.


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