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On Folly Beach by Karen White

On Folly Beach takes a young widow back in time as she discovers the love and loss of a South Carolina family through notes written in the margins of books.

From the Publisher (Penguin):  To most people, Folly Beach is simply the last barrier island before reaching the great Atlantic. To some, it’s a sanctuary for lost souls, which is why Emmy Hamilton’s mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly’s Finds, hoping it will distract Emmy from the loss of her husband.

Emmy is at first resistant. So much has already changed. But after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly’s Finds, she decides to take the plunge. But the seller insists on one condition: Emmy must allow Lulu, the late owner’s difficult sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard.

For the most part Emmy ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers about the letters, the more she understands Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during WWII 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…

Book Club Party Ideas


The residents and military men of Folly Beach spend their weekends shagging on the pier to the music of Glenn Miller – Greatest Hits Glenn Miller, The Very Best of The DriftersThe Drifters and This Is Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra 1Tommy Dorsey.    One of Maggie’s favorite dance songs was “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller.


Lulu loved her bottle trees.   She learned about bottle trees through Jim, who grew up on a plantation and would see slaves put bottles on trees to scare away evil spirits.  The  bottle tree below (left) would be a fun and colorful decoration just like Annie’s bottle tree (right).  Don’t forget to stick notes in the bottles!



We actually had our book club party at the beach, so I didn’t lug a bottle tree with me.  So for this party I opted for a beach theme.  I decorated my table with sand dollars and sea glass.   I also used a little glass jar of sand to represent the jar of sand from Folly Beach that helped remind Emmy’s mom where she came from.   Page told Emmy that she would always be able to come back home but “that would be a lot like planting a rose in the dessert; you’d survive but you’d never really bloom.”

The box that held Lulu’s treasures sounded so beautiful.   It was a lacquered box with hand painted flowers decorating the lid and a red velvet interior.  Any treasure box would be a great tabletop decoration along with sand dollar earrings, tortoise shell barrette, roller skate key, penny, handkerchief, lace hair ribbon, and a gold ring with a black onyx square on top.

My sister found the old rusted lighthouse (in photo below) at a garage sale, which reminded me of the old lighthouse in the book.

The military personnel and party goers on  Folly Beach Pier liked to drink Pabst Beer and Coca Cola, so I served these in a steel tub.

lighthouse, beach, outdoor dining

Vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia would also make great decorations.   Coca Cola was a favorite drink in the book but they often weren’t able to enjoy it due to the sugar ration.

Book Club Menu for

I based the menu on the food Peter and Maggie had on their first date:

Fried Shrimp, hush puppies, cole slaw, tartar sauce

Dessert was Mini Blackberry Cakes with Blackberry (Mint) Tea, which is what Maggie and Peter had on their picnic.   You could also base your main menu on the food they had on their picnic which was fried chicken and unsweetened corn bread (because of the sugar ration).

outdoor menu, cold drinks

Whenever I make a recipe I like to try to put the ingredients together in different ways for a more interesting presentation or because I want more of certain ingredients.  I also made a blackberry cake parfait with the same ingredients that you find in the mini blackberry cakes.

Book Club Resources

Ratings and Reviews

My Rating:  5 stars. The characters were complex and my emotions got the best of me. I was laughing, crying, angry, hopeful, sad.

“Like many of her novels, On Folly Beach is a novel full of emotion – sadness and happiness and yet hopeful at the same time. There is also a great mystery that weaves the past with the present in a way that will keep you turning the pages to find out exactly what happened and how it relates to the present day and those in it.” – Peeking Between the Pages Blog

“I enjoyed so many elements of this story – the great characters, the setting (South Carolina’s lowcountry!), the mystery and the history.  I think most readers will enjoy the bookstore setting and the literary references throughout the book.” – BermudaOnion’s Weblog

Discussion Questions for On Folly Beach by Karen White

  1. One main theme of this book is knowing when one has waited long enough to move on after the loss of a loved one.  One of my  favorite quotes in the book was when Emmy’s mom said  “Love doesn’t have a time span.  Only pain does.”   Can you relate to this quote?  What other life lessons can be learned from this story?
  2. Did you like how the story was told from two different time periods?  Did you have a hard time following the storylines?
  3. Did you learn anything about WWII that you did not previously know?
  4. Who was your favorite character?  Did you find any similarities between the main characters,  Emmy and Lulu?
  5. Were you surprised by the ending?  Would you have liked a different ending?

The Author

“I grew up being a voracious reader and it was a natural step to turn my interest to writing. I have published 12 award-winning and bestselling novels since 2000, with two more books planned for 2011 including the third book in the Tradd Street series out in November.  I write what others have termed “grit-lit”–southern women’s fiction, as well as a contemporary paranormal mystery series set in Charleston. All of my books are set in the US South, and feature a female protagonist at a crossroads in her life.   I live near Atlanta, Georgia with my husband, two children, a guinea pig and the cutest 4-year-old Havanese dog, Quincy, whom readers may recognize as General Lee in the Tradd Street series.”

More about Karen White

Additional Resources

During the 40s and 50s, Folly Beach Pier was the place to be.  There are several books about the history of Folly Beach:

  • Folly Beach: A Brief HistoryFolly Beach: A Brief History by Stringer-Robinson
  • Folly Beach: Glimpses of a Vanished StrandFolly Beach:  Glimpses of a Vanished Strand by Bill Bryan
  • Edge of America: Folly Beach, a Pictorial HistoryEdge of America:  Folly Beach, A Pictorial History by James William Hagy

I loved the historical references in the book.  Here is a video of a divers filming a sunken German u boat off the coast of the Carolinas.  They really were there!  Here is also more information about the Duquesne spy ring.

Join Emmy and Heath and watch the 2010 Perseid meteor shower which should peak sometime around August 12.

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Feel free to add your ideas, comments or book review below.

  1. Wow! I’m so impressed–and so honored that you were inspired by my book! Truly, I am speechless. And I wish I could have been there to see it all!

    I would love to link this page on my website and Facebook fan page. Please let me know if that would be all right with you.

    Thanks again–and happy reading!

    Comment by Karen White

  2. Karen, your book was fabulous and we are honored by your comments.

    Comment by Annie

  3. Thank you for taking the time to comment on our site! This is the first book of yours that I have read and I loved every minute of it! I listened to it as an audiobook and would find myself sitting in the parking lot because I didn’t want to turn it off. Besides being thoroughly entertained, I learned a lot of interesting facts about WWII.

    I wish you could have come to the party…we always try to go all out for our book club parties, but that would have definitely blown everyone away.

    We look forward to your next book!

    Comment by Lisa

  4. This was one of our more memorable book club parties. Thank you for On Folly Beach and for inspiring us to take a road trip to the beach, eat wonderful food, and have excellent conversation with our book club sisters.

    Comment by Marilyn

  5. What fabulous ideas!

    Comment by Marilyn Shoemaker

  6. What fun ideas! You really go all out–of course being able to meet on the beach is tremendous plus! I’m hosting my book club in September and now I’m going to have to go back through the book to see what clues I can find to base the food and mood upon. Hmm–Napa Valley and an avocado ranch…I’m already half way there!

    Comment by Lisa

  7. Thank you for the comments! Napa Valley and an avocado ranch sounds wonderful! Wish we could join you!

    Comment by Annie

  8. I am so impressed! Karen White has been in my top 3 authors ever since I discovered her years ago so I love everything you did and set up for your book club! How I wish I could join you there! Your whole site is really, really cool – I’ve been reading Juliet for my own enjoyment, not as a review copy…so I look forward to seeing what you do with that book! I’m glad you found my site so I could find your site!

    Comment by Stacy (A Novel Source)

  9. Thanks, Stacy!

    Comment by Lisa

  10. What a wonderful post! You have great book club ideas – I wish I could get my book club motivated to do things like that. I’m truly flattered that you linked to my review of the book.

    Comment by bermudaonion (Kathy)

  11. Kathy, loved your review (and all your reviews)! It adds such a fun touch to a book club to bring in food and decorations from the book.

    Comment by Lisa