Cascade, by Maryanne O’Hara, is a beautifully written book. At the same time poignant and heart-wrenching, it’s also touching, revealing, and strong in the essence of knowing oneself. At times when we don’t always know what is the best decision, this book shows a way to have the power to not meet societal norms or dictates, but to follow your heart and your mind’s desires.
I’m so happy to have read Cascade, as it shows a depression-era woman defying the odds and following her own true path. It’s a vibrant novel that deals with the true issue of women’s rights. The right to own her own thoughts, plans, ideas, and to formulate her own journey. Women still struggle with this today, but in the 1930s, especially with the financial foundation of America crumbling, women did not usually have the means to pursue their dreams, especially creative dreams. People were losing money, which meant less was spent on luxury items like art, theatre, writing, and weekend get-aways.
Taking place in these bad economic times, the novel opens with artist Desdemona Hart Spaulding knowing she should be content with her good-looking Lindbergh look-alike and rich-to-the-times pharmacist husband even if she doesn’t love him….or want kids badly, as he does with a virulent immediacy.
Dez is an artist and wishes to pursue her dreams, but she made the decision to marry him to survive at the moment. Her father’s town playhouse was losing money, as most things were during the Great Depression, and he fell ill. When he died, he left the playhouse to Dez’s husband, Asa. As she struggles with having made that decision to marry Asa, and vies with herself about not being able to be happy with being content, she meets a Jewish salesman, Jacob, of whom she shares a love of art.
Amid her own internal struggle is the dilemma in the town of Cascade, Massachusetts, where she lives at the opening of the book. Cascade is on the government’s list as a possible site to drown under water in the overflow from a new reservoir being built for Boston. She feverently wants to save her father’s Shakespearean theater, but it’s closed for business and not many rich city dwellers are apt to return to see the plays anymore. She uses her artistic and creative ideas in order to add to the fight against the state government, showcasing the loveliness of Cascade. I enjoyed reading about her creative ideas as I also enjoy art as well as fighting for great causes in creative ways.
However, when her idea brings household recognition, she sees her dreams of being a professional artist within her sights and New York City keeps calling. Then there is Jacob. A murder. And a mystery is added to the mix.
Overall, the book truly deals with Dez’s emotional turmoil to come to terms with feeling confident about making her own decisions as a woman. She worries over pleasing others with her decisions, but just can never shake the feeling that she isn’t where she belongs.
Cascade was emotionally saturated with grief, loss, love, hope, survival, and desire. Above all, it takes the reader on a journey about change and being true to self. It was a great reminder about tossing the feelings of guilt that come with pursuing creative dreams. I throughly loved this book and it’s a must read for fans of true literary fiction.
Note: This is a great book for book clubs, reading groups, or discussion-oriented platforms. There is much to discuss in this book including women’s roles in society and family, government “land issues,” living in a hurting economy, fighting for a cause, and more.
Come back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Maryanne, where she discusses some topics you won’t want to miss, plus there will be a giveaway!
A Slate Magazine “Best Books 2012″
A People Magazine “People Pick”
A Library Journal 2012 “Best Bet”
During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made
Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.
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?
Praise for CASCADE
“The protagonist is Desdemona Hart, a woman drowning in the choices she’s been forced to make: a marriage of necessity to save her father’s legacy and put a roof over his head as he dies……trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages. Cascade is perfect for sitting by the fire on a chilly day contemplating the immutability of things.” –Slate: 2012 Best Books, Staff Picks
“When state engineers created the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, four Central Massachusetts towns disappeared beneath the waters. In her debut novel, Cascade, Ashland resident Maryanne O’Hara chronicles the fate of one such (fictionalized) town and its inhabitants, notably Desdemona Hart Spaulding, an ambitious artist trapped in a loveless marriage. O’Hara, a former Ploughshares fiction editor, shapes her protagonist’s story to pose questions like: If art is not lastingly valuable, what is? Ponder that over your next glass of tap water.” –Boston Globe, Best of the New, 2012
“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.” –People Magazine
Link to the Official Book Trailer: http://www.maryanneohara.com/cascade-trailer/
Author Maryanne O’Hara, Biography~
Maryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.
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