White has a clear, sweet voice in her writing, and the ability to mark occasions from multiple viewpoints. Her characters are rich and captivating, and the story is tied clearly to incidents in U.S. history that most readers will not be aware of. The mystery is simpler than it seems and most readers will have figured out the climax long before the ending, but will read on for love of the tale.

Maggie has had a rough life; her parents both passed away early, leaving her to rear her young sister, Lulu, and care for her cousin, Cat. As World War II continues, and Cat's husband is killed in action, Maggie finds comfort in the daily tasks of running her bookstore and holding her household of women together. Then she meets Peter, a young salesman who is exempt from service due to health reasons, and thinks her dreams have come true. But her love for Peter and his love for her are not enough to combat the growing tension in the country, and the secrets that surround them on Folly Beach.

Decades later, a young widow named Emmy buys the little bookstore after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books there. The terms of the sale state that she must allow Lulu, the late owner's elderly sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard. The more she reads of the letters, the closer she feels to Lulu, and the closer she gets to her own healing through the unraveling of Maggie's mysteries. (NAL, May, 387 pp., $15.00)

Reviewed by: 
Victoria Frerichs