marginalia || On Folly Beach, by Karen White

Sometimes, a book just isn’t for you. Never mind that you had such good feelings about it, never mind that you chose it, never mind that you thought it’d hit the proverbial spot–after all, it is about books and sadness. Never mind that a lot of people really really really like this book.

Kids, On Folly Beach by Karen White just isn’t for me. I abandoned it a few pages after that fact began to glare, and then I abandoned it fast before I could hate it. We did not get along. Nuh-uh.

First of all, I was not a fan of White’s language. I mean, language is the first access you have as a writer to the reader–not the promise of a story, not whatever haze of characters you’ve come up with. Certainly not themes of redemption and overcoming grief. Certainly not the pursuit of answers to questions like, “How long can a secret be kept?” or “Do you, reader, dare judge this character?” It’s language. The words, dammit–it’s what welcomes you, what brings you closer to the story. Think of it as both the hand the helps you onto a tugboat, and the tugboat that chugs you along. [I suck at metaphors, I know.]

That’s my biggest beef about the story. The language. It hit me from page 1, and then it got painful because it took me away from the story–more on the story itself later–as seen in the many times that I’d simply flip through the pages looking for clichés. There are a lot of them. Look at these, from the first several pages of the novel:

. . . tilting her face to his as a sunflower turns toward the sun . . . Her grief was a silent thing–an invisible virus that gnawed at her from the inside but somehow managed to leave the rest of her unscathed. Her reflection was a surprise each time she saw it, expecting to see something withered and gray, or a black hole where her face had once been . . . Maggie wan’t sure when the word ended and his kiss began. All she knew was that she felt suspended in time and space again, the rocking of the waves beneath them and his breath on her skin as elemental as air.

Yeah. It’s never good when you’re a single page in [that part about sunflowers and tilting and yeah] and you’re rolling your eyes.

The rest of the novel–and yes, I skimmed to see what’s what–offered me more of such misplaced-ly overwrought writing, an abundance of clichés, and plot “twists” that could be seen from a mile away. Seriously. The first time a character appeared, I knew what he was going to be. I KNEW: [In the 1940s storyline, Suitor Peter Novak gets snippy when Maggie mentions Jews in the area. And then he makes a habit to ferret out questions, locations, landmarks, the like. WHAT DOES THAT SAY, WHAT? It’s audaciously predictable.] There’s just not enough risks in the novel, and little to no subtlety. For example, our protagonist Emmy gets the shivers–intuition speaking and all that–when faced with something important and momentous. The narrative informs us of that. That, Hey, Emmy’s getting the shivers, and this usually means something important’s going to be revealed. Every. Single. Time. Over and over and over again.

When I wrote in my notebook, Augh, women coming together and holding hands–Do Not Want, I knew that was it. Put it back on the shelf, give it a little pat. Restrain yourself from maliciously tearing apart a book that didn’t just disappoint you, it has you baffled at what’s really going on inside your head, and inside the heads of a lot of other people.

This book was not for me. I thought it was–it very well could have been. Books and sadness, after all–Books and sadness. But it lost me early on. I didn’t even have time to care for the characters. And, see that I couldn’t even bother to wave around a summary. Because it just feels so useless. — Augh, I give up.

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This book—and my post—is part of TLC Tours. Several other bloggers are part of the book tour for On Folly Beach, so head on over to those blogs for their thoughts–the full list is here. Take note that I’m at that ridiculously tiny minority in that I’m less than impressed, overall, by this book. OK, fine, nearly everyone likes this book, and I read it with a grimace. I delight in not feeling like an ogre. So, scoot, and read.

Thanks for dropping by, y’all. Let the hate-age commence! Hee.

3 thoughts on “marginalia || On Folly Beach, by Karen White

  1. Ouch. Can’t imagine that I would like this book. Clichés are bad, ‘romantic’ clichés arguably the worst. But I did enjoy your comments. The saving grace of clichés is the highly entertaining ‘eugh’ factor that they inspire in their victims!

    1. Thanks! I had to hold back because I was getting too gleeful, haha, I kid. ;p I mean, sometimes clichés work. But they have to be earned. I don’t know how, I don’t even know when I know they’re earned–but I feel it. Some clichés just feel right somehow, and transcend the label.


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