Saturday, March 30, 2013
Book Review - Cascade
In Maryanne O’Hara’s debut novel, CASCADE (Penguin; $16.00; ISBN: 978-0-143-12351-4; On sale April 30, 2013), Desdemona Hart Spaulding is not your average 1935 Cascade, Massachusetts housewife. A former Boston art school graduate and winner of a prestigious art prize, Dez traded in her dreams of moving to New York City to put a roof over her newly bankrupt, ailing father’s head. Two months later her father is dead and Dez is stuck: stifled by her marriage to kind but conservative Asa Spaulding, and with New York City a receding glimmer on the horizon. She also stands to lose her father’s legacy, the Shakespeare Playhouse, as the Massachusetts Water Board decides whether or not to turn Cascade into a reservoir.
Amidst this turmoil arrives Jacob Solomon, a fellow artist. With him, Dez finds understanding and desire. As their relationship reaches a pivotal moment, a man is found dead and the town points its collective finger at Jacob, a Jewish outsider. At the same time, Dez’s idea for a series of painted postcards is picked up by The American Standard and she suddenly finds herself back on the path to New York City, to Jacob, and to independence. But what must she give up along the way?
CASCADE is at once epic and intimate. It weaves together a town’s impending destruction, a man’s mysterious death, America’s struggle during the Depression, small-town anti-Semitism and the bohemian art world of Greenwich Village, as well as the story of a young woman struggling to make the best of her circumstances. With determination and not a little internal strife, Dez finds her path, contending with the death of her father and his legacy, her failed marriage, her love for another man and her unorthodox desire not to have a child, but to work.
Maryanne O’Hara is an exceptional storyteller. In Dez Hart, she has created a wonderful character trying to reconcile the expectations of her father, her husband, and the era in which she lives with her own ambition and passions.
About the Author
Maryanne O’Hara enjoyed a long tenure as Associate Fiction editor at Ploughshares, Boston’s award winning literary journal. A graduate of Emerson College’s MFA program, her short stories have been published in Redbook, Five Points, The North American Review, The Crescent Review, as well as the literary anthologies MicroFiction, Brevity and Echo, The Art of Friction and Sudden Flash Youth. CASCADE is her first novel. American and Irish, she lives on a river west of Boston with her family.
My Take on the Book
This was a suspenseful book from the beginning, and I have to be honest and say that I did not know that at start of the book. The book explores so much more than the cover may suggest and it draws you in from beginning and holds your attention until the very end. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book were the characters themselves as the author did a wonderful job of making them deep in making the relationships meaningful. The author also makes you think hard about some questions that all of us struggle with in society today. As they read further and further I found that I did not want to put this now and was gone further into the drama and the story as well as the mystery, tradition and ambition that is shown through the characters and the plot. As a first novel I have to commend the author as she was able to fully immerse the reader in the world that she created which not all writers are able to do well. After reading some of the chapters I challenge you to close your eyes and you will be transported into the town of Cascade, I know that I was!
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