Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara
Unabridged, 11 hr. 36 min.
Madeline Lambert (Narrator)
August 21, 2012
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received download from publisher as part of Solid Gold Reviewer program at Audiobook Jukebox
“During the 1930s, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her heart's ambitions with binding promises she has made
1935: Desdemona Hart Spaulding was an up-and-coming Boston artist when she married in haste and settled in the small, once-fashionable theater town of Cascade to provide a home for her dying father. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide water for Boston, and Dez's discontent is complicated by her growing attraction to a fellow artist. When tragic events unfold, Dez is forced to make difficult choices. Must she keep her promises? Is it morally possible to set herself free?”
I have to admit that the first thing to catch my attention about this book was the cover- absolutely gorgeous and refreshingly different than most historical fiction on the market today. From there, the setting called out to me – Central Massachusetts in the 1930’s-40’s. Not only is that where I live but it is one of my favorite periods in American history because of the way of life and the onset of the war. And then there is the plot device of a town (like one I grew up in) that might or might not be destroyed because a big city needs more water.
The beginning of the book moved a little slowly for me. The author uses this section well to establish the characters, particularly to get us into the mind of the main character, Dez Spaulding. It is also to establish a connection with the town of Cascade – the daily goings-on and the way of life in a small community. After reading the whole book I can safely say that although it felt slow while reading, it was necessary to make you care about what might or might not happen to Cascade.
Once you reach a little more than half-way the pacing of the novel picks up significantly as we are dealing less with character development and more with what is going to happen to Cascade and all of the events surrounding that decision. For me, the real “ah-ha!” moment was when I realized that this book was loosely based on a real event that happened in Massachusetts in the 1930s – several small towns were completely dismantled to create the Quabbin Reservoir (more on this story to come this week). I also very much appreciated the inclusion of the Works Progress Administration and the desire of several of the artist characters to be a part of it because this is another aspect that hits close to home for me (again, more to come later). Once I engrossed myself in the local history my interest in the story really grew and could not put the book down.
The only thing that bothered me while reading this book was that every now and then there would be a statement that felt out of place, usually in relation to the us being told that “four years from now I would remember…” or something to that effect. It just seemed to clash with the way the rest of the story was written and I didn’t think that it added much to the reading experience.
This is one of those books that will stay with you for a long time after reading it. The characters are well-crafted and do not feel stereotypical or cookie-cutter – they feel like living, breathing, people. The plot is fairly unpredictable – just when you think you have figured out where it is going, it goes in a different direction. There is even a surprise at the end which had me saying out-loud “NOOOO!”. I also liked the ending – despite everything that happens. Cascade is a book that will make you think a little and was another one in which I waited a little while before deciding to write the review because I needed time for it all to settle into my mind.
I had a few more qualms with the audiobook narration. Frankly, I didn’t really like the narrator chosen for this book. Despite the beautiful prose, the narration was what frequently made me put the book down. For at least the first ¾ of the book the narrator didn’t really have any modulation or tonality to her voice. It all felt very blah – this could have contributed to how slow the first portion of the book felt to me. Toward the end of the book either I was too sucked into the story to notice it anymore, or she changed her manner of speaking because the end was, in my opinion, better narrated than the beginning. When she would voice one of the men characters it was very poor in my opinion – I would have preferred that she hadn’t tried to make male voices and it all sound the same. Also, these voices would often frequently be spoken softer than her typical narration of the main character – I’m not sure if this was a production issue or not, but I had to frequently turn up the volume during dialogues.
This is author Maryanne O’Hara’s debut novel. You can visit her website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
You can also watch the book trailer below.
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