Book Review: On Folly Beach

On Folly Beach
Format: Audiobook
Narrated By: Lyssa Browne
Published By: Listen & Live Audio, Inc.
Audio Length: 11 discs
Release Date: May 2010
Buy it at Amazon or IndieBound
Source: Library
Audience: Adult 

A deeply satisfying and hypnotic addition to modern Southern fiction conjuring up lost loves and the salty ocean air with a poetic prose that mesmerizes...

Southern literature is always something I gravitate towards in my reading. I suppose it's the fact that no matter where I live I will always see the South as my home. Furthermore, I spent every summer of my childhood on the shores of South Carolina frolicking in the Atlantic, walking the beach, and visiting the historical attractions throughout the Carolina lowcountry. When I stumbled upon this audiobook at the library, I knew that it was the perfect read for me. Although, I have never spent much time on Folly Beach, I do know the area and have spent countless hours in nearby Charleston. 

Karen White does a fabulous job of bringing the setting to life so even if you have never been to South Carolina you will find yourself totally immersed - it's almost as if you can smell the salt mingling with the marsh and the warm breeze caressing your face. The setting in this book is almost a character. I always find books with a strong sense of place to be more enjoyable than those in which the setting seems to fade into the background.

Furthermore, I was so vested in these characters and plot that I couldn't stop thinking about this book. White has created two strong story strands and interweaves them in a flawless way to lead the reader through the turbulent lives of two women - living in different time periods - who are both struggling to deal with love and loss. 

Emmy, the main character in the present day, has just lost her husband, Ben, while he was on duty in Afghanistan. Everywhere she turns she finds a memory of him and her heart is unable to heal. How are you supposed to let the love of your life go? Emmy's mother, Paige, a Folly Beach native, convinces her daughter to leave Indiana to head south to purchase Folly's Finds, an eclectic bookstore that has been a main staple on the island for decades. Emmy isn't sure she wants to leave Indiana and all the memories of Ben behind, but she soon stumbles on a box of books from Folly's Finds that have messages littering the margins. A mystery is developing and Emmy has to do everything she can to figure out what these messages mean and who wrote them so long ago.

The second plot strand takes the reader into the past during the WWII era when the Atlantic seaboard was a hot spot for military activity. Maggie, a strong and intelligent young woman, is the owner of Folly's Finds and she is trying to raise her younger sister, Lulu, and keep her widowed cousin, Cat, out of trouble. Along the way, Maggie falls in love with the dashing and mysterious Peter. As secrets and deception abound, Maggie must decide what is more important: love or family.

On Folly Beach is a novel that is steeped in family secrets, tragedy, love affairs, and books. I loved unraveling the mystery behind the notations in the margins right along with Emmy. It took me almost as long as her to finally figure out really happened in the 1940's. This book is one that shows you that secrets always come to the surface and love can truly heal all wounds.

The narrator, Lyssa Browne, did a beautiful job with this one. I enjoyed her tone and cadence. She also was able to really distinguish each character from others. I never had trouble figuring out who was speaking. Some narrators can become monotonous, but this was not the case at all with this book. I would highly recommend the audio version of this story and I would listen to other books Browne narrated in the future.

One Last Gripe: I want to know what's next for Emmy. I'm sure I can imagine where things are headed, but I'd rather it be concrete.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The historical aspects and the southern culture

First Sentence: Emmy awoke to the song of the wind in the bottle tree, to the black night and the winter chill, and knew Ben was gone from her the way the moon knows the ocean's tides.

Favorite Character: Emmy

Least Favorite Character: Cat

To most people, Folly Beach, South Carolina, is simply the last barrier island before the Atlantic. To some, it's a sanctuary, which is why Janie Hamilton's mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly's Finds, hoping it will distract Janie from the loss of her husband in Afghanistan.

Janie is at first resistant, but intrigued after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly's Finds, and decides to take the plunge. The store's seller insists on one condition: Janie must allow Lulu, the late owner's elderly sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard. Historically, bottle trees were brought by African slaves to the American South, and Janie had grown up with one in her backyard, and it has always been a symbol of refuge to her.

Janie generally ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers of the letters' authors, the closer she feels to Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during World War II are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control, sixty years apart, have brought them together, here on Folly Beach. And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope for a second chance...


  1. Beautiful cover, great review! You made me want to read this one!

  2. I really love books that are set in that area. I lived in Charleston when I was little and it is still one of my favorite places ever! I have not read one in a while though, so I was glad to see this review. I will have to see if I can get my hands on this one.

  3. @Annette & Shannon: I hope you'll both give it a try. It was one of the best books I've read this year. It had everything I love in books - great setting, realistic characters, history, mystery, and romance.


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