The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Fiction; 320 pgs
I have tears in my eyes as I sit down to write this review. Cathy Marie Buchanan's novel could not have ended any other way, really. This book is both beautiful and bittersweet. This is the type of romantic story I enjoy most--one that is realistic, one that is about falling in love and about life after that initial fall.
Niargara Falls entered my heart the first time I visited when I was a child and again when I was able to visit with my husband. Seeing beyond the tourist trappings and commercialization, the Falls are one of the most beautiful natural landmarks I have ever seen. To say it is majestic is not an overstatement.
I am always fascinated by the history of the places I visit, and it was no different when visiting Niagara Falls. I loved hearing and reading about the daredevils who went over the falls in barrels and other contraptions, hoping to conquer the water. Then there were the whirlpools, the botanical gardens, the history of the power companies harnessing the water. And, of course, the fact that to Falls really do stand still. I continue to get unbelieving shakes of the head and skeptical looks when I mention it to those not familiar with Niagara Falls.
Cathy Marie Buchanan not only recreates the history of Niagara Falls in her novel, but she also gives it a more personal, human face. This story follows the life of Bess, a young woman whose family was fairly well to do up until her father lost his job with the power company. Suddenly, Bess's world changes. Her mother has to go to work, her father drowns himself in alcohol, and her older sister, once engaged to a well-respected man, is wasting away, clearly depressed.
When the book begins, Bess is a naive 16 year old, still full of hopes and dreams. Her worries are mostly superficial and she knows very little of the world outside. Over the course of the book, she grows and adapts in ways that she probably couldn't have imagined as she stood looking out her window on her last day of school. In a way, this book is her coming of age story. It is also her love story. The story of how she met a river man, a man far below her station, fell in love, and then had to decide whether or not to pursue him.
Tom reminded me of my husband and I think that is why I fell in love with his character in The Day the Falls Stood Still. My husband is no man of nature, no river man, the way Tom is, but they have similar natures in other ways.
While I loved the first part of the book in which Tom and Bess get to know each other and fall in love, it was later in the book, after a horrible tragedy, when I was completely swept off my feet. That's when we really get to see the depth of Bess and Tom's characters. They both had to make sacrifices that changed them, both for the better and the worse.
It is obvious the author has a special connection to the setting of the novel. Her love for Niagara Falls comes through in her descriptions of the area and of its history. Just as I was drawn to the love story and the characters and their troubles, both the major and minor characters, I was also drawn to the historical aspect of the novel. The politics of the time were not so different than they are now in some respects. Greed and power are strong motivators; progress is as well. And yet at what cost to the environment? I could see where Bess's father was coming from with his viewpoints as well as Tom, although I tended to agree more with Tom.
The novel opens in 1915 and covers the course of several years. World War I is underway and Canada is feeling the strain of having to conserve and sending her men off to war. Bess and Tom are not untouched by the war, nor by the after affects of those directly impacted by fighting in the war. So much death and violence can kill one's spirit. We see it today in our soldiers who have returned home from the battlefield, but I think sometimes we forget it isn't something new.
There is so much more I want to say about this book. I knew I would like it when I first began reading, and possibly even love it. I most certainly loved it. The Day the Falls Stood Still is not only a well written novel, it is one that really touched my heart. It is novel of history, enduring love, sacrifice, and of hope. I hope you will read it if you haven't already.
You can learn more about Cathy Marie Buchanan and her books on the author's website.
Source: I purchased both a hardcover copy and e-copy of this book for my own reading pleasure.
© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.