Saturday, May 25, 2013

FOLLY BEACH by Dorothea Benton Frank

Publisher:  Avon
Date published:  April 24, 2012 (reprint edition)
ISBN:  978-0-06-196128-1
Reviewed by Lynne
Obtained via publisher


Cathryn Mahon Cooper - or Cate, to her friends and family - is shocked and devastated at the sudden loss of her husband, Addison.  Yet it isn’t until his funeral she learns of the incredible web of deceit he has spun throughout their marriage.  Left with nothing, once the creditors take their due, Cate, at the advice of her family, returns to her roots, to the woman who raised her.  Aunt Daisy.  To her home at FOLLY BEACH, South Carolina.

As Cate starts a new life amid the glistening beaches and reconnects with childhood memories, it is then she begins sorting through her own fears and worries by taking comfort in the history of Folly Beach and the enticing Gullah traditions of the area. 

As fate would have it, Cate meets a man too good to be true, John Risley, who involves her with the history of an artist, a writer, and a sometime colleague of George Gershwin, the genius behind the famous play, “Porgy and Bess”.  Dorothy Heyward’s beloved husband, DuBose.  As Cate researches the couple’s poignant history, she soon finds herself intrigued and wants to learn more. 

As time goes on, her own relationship with Risley deepens, and he soon convinces her to write a play of her own.  Though the Heywards are long gone, ripples of their passion and spirit linger at FOLLY BEACH, which leads Cate into becoming her own person, the woman she has always desired to be.

FOLLY BEACH by Dorothea Benton Frank is a delightful book, with an interesting story to tell.  This edition is a reprint of the original FOLLY BEACH:  A LOW COUNTRY TALE, only with a different cover.

At first, I found FOLLY BEACH a bit strange, the way it started out.  But I soon learned that every other chapter was a flashback to a different time.  The time of the Heywards’ lives at FOLLY BEACH.  Once I figured that out, I understood what was happening.

I greatly enjoyed FOLLY BEACH.  It brought me to a time, a subject, I knew little about.  The time of when the famous “Porgy and Bess” was written.  The way Frank interweaved the lives of the Heywards with the life of Cate Cooper was done quite skillfully.  The fact that Frank is an extremely talented writer is demonstrated clearly in the way FOLLY BEACH is presented.

I empathized greatly with the main character, Cate Cooper, when she learns what her deceased husband did to her.  It was easy to relate to her circumstances and the feeling of hopelessness she must have felt at the devastating discovery, that he had left her penniless because of his greed and mismanagement of their money, and everyone else’s.  To have to lose everything, then move back home had to be very difficult for her.  It was an extremely low point in her life.  But I loved how quickly things changed for the better.

The turning point for Cate, when she meets John Risley, is a wonderful part of FOLLY BEACH.  John sounds like everything a woman would want in a man.  The addition of his nutsy wife was sheer genius, because it added a lot of conflict, perhaps even tension into this story.  John could never truly connect with Cate because of his marriage.  Although it seemed inevitable that things would work out in the end, it still was a bit of a wrench between Cate and John in the beginning.  Especially since John seemed so right for Cate.  I loved how they connected, of what they shared through humor, encouragement, and even history.

The variety of minor characters, namely Cate’s children, also added some conflict and a bit of tension in FOLLY BEACH.  Along with their many problems, then we have Aunt Daisy and her health problems.  She is a very likeable person, spunky, one that many readers can probably relate to, since they may have Aunt Daisies of their own they care about.

I did find it a bit strange about the addition of the autographed piano that was identical to the one in the museum.  I actually thought Cate might try to sell hers or donate it or check to verify that the one in the museum was authentic.  Regardless, it was a unique idea for FOLLY BEACH.  This scene does seem a bit contrived, yet it takes nothing away from the story.

Frank does a wonderful job of tying up everything at the end of FOLLY BEACH.  It is a happy, pleasant ever after for many of the characters.

Filled with interesting characters and tidbits, humor, great dialogue, lots of family turmoil, a bit of mystery, and feel-good plotting, FOLLY BEACH is a sure charmer for anyone interested in whiling away an afternoon or just lounging on the beach with a good book.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.


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