Dreams of Falling by Karen White once again proves why readers have fallen in love with her books. Blending together friendships, betrayal, loyalty, and forgiveness over three generations makes for a gripping plot. At the heart of the mystery are the secrets each character is hiding.
This is a story about three generations of women and is told from the perspective of Ceecee, Ivy, and Larkin. The main story goes from the present day (2010) to 1951 flashbacks. Set in Georgetown, South Carolina, the story begins as Larkin returns home to help locate her missing mother, Ivy, and realizes there is a dark secret centering around the death of one of Ceecee’s best friends from high school. Margaret, Ceecee, and Bitty have just graduated from high school in 1951 with all their dreams ahead of them. But they are shattered when Margaret finds she is an unwed mother who lost her boyfriend while fighting in the Korean War. Years later her daughter Ivy has a similar experience when she loses her recently married husband who fought in Vietnam. Now the third generation, Larkin, must piece together what happened during those turbulent years. The mystery comes into play as the fifty-year secrets are slowly unveiled.
White masterfully crafts a story that has deep emotion, a riveting mystery, and surprising twists. Readers will keep the pages turning to find out what happens to all the characters.
Elise Cooper: Why did you choose these timelines?
Karen White: I am love with the 1950s and now had the pleasure of delving into this era. This post war period was one of the best times to live in, and the crazy sixties had not happened yet. I chose the other timeline, 2010, on purpose. Bitty and Ceecee were still sprightly and would have been too old if I set it in 2018. I also wanted Ivy to be a particular age during the Vietnam War. This way I could move from the Korean War to the Vietnam War.
EC: Why dreams?
KW: I had the Tree of Dreams, a moss-draped oak on the banks of the North Santee River. The three girls, Ceecee, Margaret, and Bitty, wrote their dreams on ribbons and placed it into the tree’s trunk, including the most important one: ‘Friends forever, come what may.’ I personally have had really bizarre dreams, which my daughter tries to interpret. My imagination and the desire to learn more about dreams is why I decided to put this in. But the story is not about nocturnal dreams, but the dreams of the three girls, what they hoped for the future.
EC: It seemed to be an anti-Cinderella story?
KW: I wanted to have it realistic where dreams do not always come true. I wanted to show it is not the end of the world if they don’t. Another door will open, and that everyone should have a Plan B.
EC: The characters had to deal with a loss of a loved one, some literally and some figuratively?
KW: All the characters lived through it in a different way. Both Ivy and her mother had to deal with grief. For Ivy, she always wondered what could have been, creating a sad life. When Margaret’s life fell apart she had no recourse because she was never taught to rely on herself, just a pampered rich girl. Ceecee on the other hand had to fight for her place in the world and tried to make a purpose out of her life, a survivor.
EC: How would you describe Larkin?
KW: She is a little bit of all of us. Successful professionally but when you look inside of her there are gaps. We all wear masks. Everyone thinks she has no past, but she has this gaping hole that needs to be filled. She has been away from home for nine years, but comes back to forgive people. She decides to look toward the future.
EC: The secrets bring in the mystery?
KW: Each character had a different reason for keeping them. It presented the family and friend dynamics. Maybe they were used to save a friendship or to protect those they loved. I do not think people who keep secrets always have bad intentions. The mystery is what happened between the friends. To emphasize this point I put in the quote, ‘It’s easy to be kind and giving and loyal when you have everything. But the mark of a true friend is when everything is taken away and you’re still kind, giving, and loyal.’
EC: The house, Carrowmore, also plays a role?
KW: The house is based on a real place. My daughter has a degree in house renovations and she took a whole class on the restoration of this plantation, named Tidwell. I put in the book the truth about developers, not some of my favorite people. In my books, I like to give a dig to things that bother me in society. The National Forest people did not want the house, but did want the land to preserve it for development. Tidwell was rescued from complete demolition and ruin. I think old houses should be saved because they have such integrity. I put in this book quote about Carrowmore, “It’s been owned by your family since the seventeen hundreds, and the land, right on the river-I can’t imagine them razing all of these old-growth trees and the house and putting cluster homes on it.’ I think the house went through a transition just as the characters did.
EC: You have Ivy unconscious throughout the book. How did you write those scenes?
KW: I read a lot of anecdotal stories about people that have been in a coma. They say they hear every word even though they cannot respond. We should read and talk to people even if they cannot communicate back. In some sense, it is reassuring to understand this. Ivy chose to hang on until her loved ones could come to their own realization about the secrets.
EC: Music plays a role in this book?
KW: I have the same talent as Larkin where I can hear a few notes and name the song. I am a music hound. I love all types of music except Rap. I want “Name That Tune” to come back because I would so be a contestant and I would so win. I adore Tom Petty so I gave him a nod because he died when I was writing the book. When I was driving through Georgetown South Carolina I saw a sign about the annual Shag festival. Of course, I had to check it out and write it into the story. It is a combination of rock/R&B/pop music of the 1950s and 1960s. People can dance to it, kind of like Swing dance, but with a Carolina emphasis. I definitely need to learn how to dance it, everyone should.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books?
KW: I collaborated with authors Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams on a book out in September called The Glass Ocean. It is set on the last voyage of the Lusitania, and goes back and forth between the perspective of someone in the present day and two characters on the ship. It will have intrigue, romance, and espionage. There will also be the sixth book in the Tradd Street Series that will continue to have historical homes, a South Carolina setting, and more adventures with Melanie Middleton and Jack Trenholm.