Man, Folly was a difficult book to read–but fortunately, not quite as much a difficult to review. As I’ve said before in my reviews, I greatly enjoy Laurie King’s work, and this is easily one of the most substantial novels of hers I’ve tackled to date, if not the most.
Folly has just enough of a mystery in it to qualify as an actual mystery novel, but without a doubt, the true core of this story is the struggle of Rae Newborn against her own history of crippling depression. She’s had to fight against it all her life, but most recently, it’s been exacerbated beyond all bearing by the death of her second husband and youngest child, and on top of even that, suffering a rape attempt. Now, certain she needs to either conquer her demons or let them destroy her, she’s taken refuge on a remote island in the San Juans and is determined to rebuild the wreck of a house once owned by one of her ancestors. Once there, she discovers secrets about her great-uncle’s history–and disturbing hints about what may well have been going on in her own.
If you’re someone who’s suffered depression or who has a loved one who’s done so, this may not be the book for you; I haven’t had to deal with that burden, and even then, I had a hard time making my way through this book. A great number of the passages when Rae is alone on Folly with nothing but the surrounding wilderness and her own treacherous thoughts are almost painful in their evocativeness. So are several of Rae’s initial interactions with her neighbors, and her later interactions with what’s left of her troubled family. Balancing this out are King’s vivid descriptions of the island’s setting itself; Folly is as much a character as any of the people in the cast.
I think my only real complaint with it is that certain plot revelations at the end slightly cheapen the struggle Rae goes through, but overall this was a fairly minor complaint. I was very pleased to make the trek through the entire book… but yeah, it was a tough go. So if you go in, I’d recommend taking your time and reading it in whatever size chunks you’re up for tackling, and intersperse them with something joyful. Four stars.