Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guest Post- Ann Weir's review of Cathy Marie Buchanan: The Day the Falls Stood Still

In 1915, when this novel opens, the young heroine Bess Heath sadly leaves the Loretto Academy boarding school in Niagara Falls a year before graduation.  Her father has lost his prestigious job at the Niagara Power Company and has no other prospects, causing a sudden shift in the family’s circumstances.  Bess returns home to a depressed father who has taken up drinking and a frazzled mother attempting to keep the family afloat by resuming her seamstress business.  Bess’ older sister Isabel, normally “flirtatious and charming in the way only the prettiest girls dared to be” is a mere shadow of her former self, seemingly having lost the will to live.  Much more has changed for the Heath’s and the other residents of Niagara Falls; WWI is underway overseas and hydroelectricity is becoming a serious and lucrative business.  Against this backdrop, Bess meets Tom Cole, grandson of local hero Angus Cole who had a well-reported history of rescuing folks from the power and unpredictability of the Niagara River and the Falls.  Tom is also a river man, living almost indigently, but possessing an uncanny knowledge of the river and it’s adjacent environment.  Tom can anticipate danger based only on the slightest changes to his surroundings combined with his sixth sense of the river.  Bess and Tom are mutually smitten and their love story begins.

The Day the Falls Stood Still, this author’s debut novel, has all the elements of an epic family saga; loyalty, shame, tragedy and star-crossed love.  The setting is spectacular and I learned to appreciate the power and beauty of the river and it’s affect on the local residents.  By writing this story almost completely through the eyes of Bess, Buchanan provides great insight into her character.  Bess is a strong, independent and modern woman, someone who rejects social norms to find her own happiness while still supporting her family.  Tom is a worthy partner for Bess; brave, principled and, unlike the unscrupulous power company executives, respectful of the natural wonder that is the Niagara River.  The river is a fitting symbol in this story and it dominates Bess’ life.  With great effort, she both supports her growing family and maintains her love for the river, and by extension her love for Tom.  Buchanan’s writing flows through this book so gracefully, I became totally absorbed in the story.  This is a great first novel and it will certainly be a tough act to follow. 

1 comment:

Cathy Marie Buchanan said...

Thank you, Ann and John. You've made my day!