Review: Folly Beach by Dorothea Benton Frank

22 Jun

Folly Beach: A Lowcountry TaleMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is the first Dorothea Benton Frank book I’ve read, but I don’t think it will be the last.

Summary via Goodreads:

With its sandy beaches and bohemian charms, surfers and suits alike consider Folly Beach to be one of South Carolina’s most historic and romantic spots. It is also the land of Cate Cooper’s childhood, the place where all the ghosts of her past roam freely. Cate never thought she’d wind up in this tiny cottage named the Porgy House on this breathtakingly lovely strip of coast. But circumstances have changed, thanks to her newly dead husband whose financial—and emotional—bull and mendacity have left Cate homeless, broke, and unmoored.

Yet Folly Beach holds more than just memories. Once upon a time another woman found unexpected bliss and comfort within its welcoming arms. An artist, writer, and colleague of the revered George Gershwin, Dorothy Heyward enjoyed the greatest moments of her life at Folly with her beloved husband, DuBose. And though the Heywards are long gone, their passion and spirit lingers in every mango sunset and gentle ocean breeze.

And for Cate, Folly, too, holds the promise of unexpected fulfillment when she is forced to look at her life and the zany characters that are her family anew. To her surprise, she will discover that you can go home again. Folly Beach doesn’t just hold the girl she once was . . . it also holds the promise of the woman she’s always wanted—and is finally ready—to become.

This is just the kind of book I like to use to kick back and relax. It is comfortable, with characters I enjoyed getting to know.

I admit, the beginning was a bit of a stretch for me. The book alternates between scenes from a script for a one-woman play and Cate’s life.

I had a hard time with the voice of the character in the play. As I got into Folly Beach, I grew to appreciate the play and the woman in it, but it was never as appealing to me as the rest of the book.

Then, I had a little trouble connecting with Cate as she and her situation were introduced. She knew there were problems in her life, but she didn’t realize how total they were until absolutely everything collapsed.

However, once the initial shock passed, Cate became a character I very much enjoyed knowing. She had enough strength to keep going and build a new life, enough humility to let friends and family help her get started, and was real enough that she didn’t get through the whole ordeal pain free.

What I enjoyed most about Folly Beach was the relationships between the characters– between Cate and her sister, between Cate and her (grown) children, between Cate and the Aunt that raised her. Each allowed a glimpse into a side of Cate that she wouldn’t show on her own.

Cate’s finding of her own path made for interesting reading as well, as her past theater career took a new path.    Her mentor here is a new acquaintance, one that starts to play a large role in her life.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the South Carolina setting, which was almost a character into itself. It isn’t an area of the country I have any real familiarity with, either in person or through fiction, and I liked this introduction to it.

The historical aspect of the story (and the play that grew out of it) took longer to grow on me, and I never had the same enjoyment for Dorothy as I did for Cate.

There was one other aspect of the book that felt clunky to me at times. The book had Something To Say about and Important Subject– race in South Carolina, historically and today. To this end, many of the characters weren’t described physically, I think to introduce one “surprise” at the end. I appreciated the general reflections on what has and hasn’t changed, but it didn’t always flow smoothly with the story.

The strengths of Folly Beach outweigh the weaknesses, and I look forward to reading other books by this author.

I read Folly Beach for a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC and William Morrow for providing me a copy of this book to review. For other opinions on the book, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours


Posted by on June 22, 2011 in books, reviews


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6 responses to “Review: Folly Beach by Dorothea Benton Frank

  1. Heather J. @ TLC

    June 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I’m glad you stuck with it because it sounds like it got better as the story went on. Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. laura

    September 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    I love lowcountry stories and am an avid reader but this is seriously one of the most poorly written books of all time. The further it goes on, the writing skill decreases. An awful, wretched waste of time. Could not have been more dissapointed.

    • Pat

      July 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Yes Laura, I completely agree. This was our Library book choice and after reading it I remain
      scratching my head wondering why a Library would pick a unrealistic book filled with so much


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