Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Review of Maryann O'Hara's Cascade

By Kim

Cascade synopsis (from the novel’s goodreads profile):

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will savor this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set in New York City and New England during the uncertain, tumultuous 1930s.

About Maryann O’Hara (adapted from the author’s goodreads profile):

Photo by Joanne Smith
Maryann O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at Ploughshares, Boston’s award-winning literary journal. Her short fiction has been published in The North American Review, Five Points, Redbook, The Crescent Review, and these anthologies: MicroFiction, Brevity and Echo, The Art of Friction, Sudden Flash Youth, and Fictionality/Reality/ Possibility. She is grateful for grants she received from the St. Botolph Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and to the editors who nominated her stories for Pushcart Prizes. Her story collection was a finalist for 2010’s Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.

My Review:

Anytime my friend Stephanie Cowell recommends a book to me, I buy it at once and put it at the top of my To-Be-Read pile. In the case of Cascade, there were several other things that prompted me to not only buy the book, but set aside the one I was currently reading and dig in at once. I love the time period, that the protagonist is a woman artist who has another artist as her muse, and was fascinated by the premise of a town being destroyed in such a way.

O’Hara’s descriptions of the artistic process were fantastic (and led me to make a few tweaks in my own manuscript.) Though the protagonist, Dez, is unfaithful to her husband, a successful, handsome, and a supportive man who loves her, the author skillfully keeps her not only likeable but utterly sympathetic. I ached both for her plight and for the fate of Cascade.  

An appreciation for art would be helpful, but is not essential, for enjoying this novel. I would consider it a must read for art lovers or those who are curious about towns that have been demolished in the name of progress.

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