Sunday, October 18, 2009

THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Cathy Marie Buchanan (2009)

First time novelist Cathy Marie Buchanan writes with precision and aplomb in this tale which begins in 1915 in Niagara Falls, the dawn of a new era of hydroelectric power. Seventeen year old Bess Heath has lived a life of privilege as the youngest daughter of a hydro executive; however, after graduating from her boarding school and returning to her family home, she discovers that nothing is as she'd remembered. Her father has been fired, her mother is working as a seamstress instead of managing her household staff and Bess's beloved sister Isabel has taken to her bed, her engagement to Boyce Cruikshank broken.

A chance meeting with Tom Cole on a trolley platform changes Bess's life. And, although her blossoming relationship with him causes friction with her family, Bess is determined to make it work because Tom is not only handsome, but also talented and kind and thoughtful. Prejudice makes life difficult for the two lovers, but they persevere and remain devoted to each other throughout the years that Tom serves in WWI and returns a broken man.

Archival photos of the era as well as news clippings interspersed throughout the story add a degree of verisimilitude, though Buchanan's telling is deft enough without them. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey along the shoals and eddies of this story and you will too.

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