Cascade: A Novel

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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 ...

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Cascade: A Novel

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Overview

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?

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Editorial Reviews

Susan Vreeland

“Maryanne O''Hara weaves as intricate, as theatrical, and as tempestuous a plot as deftly as Prospero. Through the eyes of an artist yearning for a larger life-canvas but constrained by a humdrum marriage in a town careening toward destruction, we see the failings of men and women in their tangled relationships, each member of the cast struggling to find a fulfilling life. Save the town! Save the Shakespearean theater! Save our dreams, we cry out with the players.”—Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Library Journal
In the 1930s, four central Massachusetts towns were flooded to create Quabbin Reservoir as a water source for Boston. In this satisfying new novel set at that time, the fictional town of Cascade is about to be swallowed up by a new reservoir. Desdemona (Dez) Spaulding is an aspiring artist who lives in Cascade with her pharmacist husband, Asa. Her late father owned a small but well-regarded Shakespeare theater in the town. Dez is desperate to save her father's playhouse and also torn by her attraction to a visiting artist, Jacob Solomon. When Dez makes a name for herself at a major magazine with a series of painted postcards that portray the upcoming flooding of Cascade, her small-town life starts to unravel. While not a Shakespearean tragedy, this debut offers a rueful look at the surprising twists and turns life can take. VERDICT O'Hara deftly combines several different themes into a cohesive novel about love, ambition, loyalty, and betrayal, with an ironic twist at the end.—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670026029
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 8/16/2012
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 2, 2012

    read it Read It READ IT !!! I could not put it down.

    At first glance, it's easy to mistake Maryanne O'Hara's compelling debut novel for a sort of woman's romantic novel, given the beauty of the cover, but it isn't at all. Inside that cover lies a great read for anyone, male or female, who loves a smart story.

    Set in 1930s Massachusetts, "Cascade" is about big change, ambition, mystery, hope, mortality, tradition, a wrong marriage, the possibility of passion, and the cost of pursuing what most matters. This is a dramatic, suspenseful, beautifully written and wise novel that highlights the timelessness of our questions and struggles as people.

    Read it, pass it around, give it to everyone on your gift list. Wonderful.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 6, 2012

    Great book, engrossing plot, beautiful writing. Perfect combo o

    Great book, engrossing plot, beautiful writing. Perfect combo of page turning story and well-crafted writing. I love when I find that! The story sucks you in, I couldn't stop reading, but so does the language and the tone of the book. i was able to lose myself in the 1930's world...a time I have always loved, and which the is perfectly created here. A smart book...and one you can't put down.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Wonderful, Engaging Novel

    I finished this book and feel like a good friend moved away. The author tells a story of love, determination, and disapointment. There were moments that I felt like I was standing in the town of Cascade looking at the playhouse wondering it's fate.
    This is a not miss book!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    a timeless, gripping, beautiful story, credibly researched, comp

    a timeless, gripping, beautiful story, credibly researched, compellingly rendered, appealing to men and women. hard to believe that this is the author's first novel! i could not stop reading.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Desdemona "Dez" Hart Spaulding wanted nothing more tha

    Desdemona "Dez" Hart Spaulding wanted nothing more than to go to New York as an artist, but life got in the way. Her father became ill, bankrupt and so she did what she could to help him by marring the town pharmacist, Asa. By marring Asa she had been able to save her father's Shakespeare Theater in the town of Cascade, Massachusetts. Soon after her marriage her father died leaving his theater to Asa and Dez was left in a marriage, in a life she never wanted. 




    Dez spends much of her time in the little art studio in her home, when she meets Jacob Solomon another artist. Soon Dez falls for Jacob and dreams of a life with him in New York, but she feels trapped by her word. It's the 1930's and divorce in a small town is a very dirty word. The town of Cascade finds out it is being considered to be destroyed in order to make a reservoir. Dez puts her artwork to use by depicting life in the town in hopes of swaying the government to pick another town to destroy. Saving the town, falling in love with Jacob, her desire to create art, and her loveless marriage builds up and begins to unravel in ways the reader doesn't expect. 




    Cascade is one of the most beautifully written stories I've read. Within the first few pages I was drawn into Dez's story. Sometimes I liked Dez and sometimes I couldn't get over her foolishness. I really felt for Dez and you can empathize with her situation with her struggle to do what is right and yet what she desires. I was completely engrossed in this novel not wanting to put it down. 




    This is a complex read with well crafted characters and plot.  I highly recommend Cascade if you are looking for a book with a powerful tension filled story. Do not miss this book! 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Interesting read

    Kept me reading

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Dez grew up with something of a charmed life before the Depressi

    Dez grew up with something of a charmed life before the Depression. Her father was important in the community, the owner of the playhouse where the likes of Lionel Barrymore performed. They had a housekeeper to take care of the home, and enough money for Dez to travel and attend school in Boston. She never wanted for anything. She could spend her time indulging her whims and feeding her creative nature. Then the Depression struck, her father lost everything but the playhouse, and suddenly she is forced to make choices she fears she cannot live with. Now stuck in a lifeless marriage to a good man for whom she feels no passion, trying to find time for her art in between keeping the house and performing “wifely duties”, forever trying to stave off pregnancy, she feels doomed. Add to this the drama of the constant threat that hangs over the town that it could be chosen to be sacrificed to create a water reservoir for nearby Boston and surrounding areas (although Dez secretly hopes this may actually come to fruition, as she longs to move to New York and get away from this stagnating town that is suffocating her).Then traveling salesman and artist Jacob shows up on her doorstep, and Dez finds in him the soul mate of an artist's heart.

    Dez spends most of the book discontent. She doesn't appreciate how lucky she is to have the security her husband offers during the Depression. Asa is a good man- ethical and hardworking. But he is not a passionate man, he does not have an artist's eye or heart, and he leaves Dez feeling alone in life. Then she meets Jacob, who is of the same heart as her, and they become star-crossed lovers, trapped by convention and propriety and with a passion fueled by an appreciation for the beauty in life.

    Dez, like many artists, actually had some great insights into the human condition, but mostly she seemed too lost in her own misery to care about anything else. Eventually she makes it to New York, where she believes happiness resides, but even there things are not perfect. It seemed this woman would never be happy. She would always want what she didn’t have. The grass was always greener on the other side. And always pulling her forward is the future of the Playhouse and the secret held within Portia's casket, a miniature casket that Dez's father gave her before he died, telling her that it holds a treasure. Making Dez promise to not open the casket until the Playhouse reopened, Dez keeps the casket close by, a promise of the future.

    My final word: I enjoyed this story, for the most part. It was a little heavy and at times depressing. In the beginning, I loved the relationship between star-crossed lovers Dez and Jacob, always attempting to keep their passion at arms length. Later it becomes evident that Dez is consumed with herself and what she wants, and that everyone around her will suffer for it. But it was well-written, and it kept me guessing with little twists and turns, and stories within stories.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2012

    Great, quick read

    Well written and interesting from the start to the end.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    Disappointing

    Silly simple tale

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2013

    x

    x

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Cascade is NOT historical fiction. Most of the book is set in a

    Cascade is NOT historical fiction. Most of the book is set in a fictional town - surrounded by real towns - and set amid a real effort to build a reservoir that would serve Boston. That reservoir is called the Quabbin, not Rappahannock.

    Four towns that were in the Swift River Valley were taken to make the Quabbin, and none were called Cascade or Whistling Falls. 2500 people were uprooted, and 34 cemeteries were moved. The timing is roughly the same, but the decision process had occurred much earlier.

    I don't understand why the author had to create fictional towns set among real ones, or a "contest" between 2 towns as neither of these things added to the story. In fact, I found those things irritating, and thought the author missed a wonderful opportunity to set her story within a real historical event.

    That said, I found Desdemona to be an unlikeable character, too self-centered to be someone I'd cheer for. She justified all her lies, even while acknowledging the hurt they'd cause others when they, inevitably, were exposed. She got some pay-back in the end, but not nearly as much as she deserved.

    I read this book because it was suggested as a 'cornerstone' of our library's next town-wide reading theme. While I find the history of the Quabbin's creation to be fascinating, I will oppose this book being included should that theme be chosen.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    Emma, r u on?

    ~Leon

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013

    Emma

    Yup.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Author: Maryanne O'Hare Published by: Viking Adult Age Recommen

    Author: Maryanne O'Hare
    Published by: Viking Adult
    Age Recommended: Adult
    Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
    Book Blog For: GMTA
    Rating: 5

    Review:

    "Cascade" by Maryanne O'Hare was well written historical fiction setting was from the Boston suburb of Cascade around 1930-40's where "Cascade" is about big change, ambition, mystery, hope, mortality, tradition, a wrong marriage, the possibility of passion, and the cost of pursuing what most matters." I found this novel has a slow beginning but as you get further into this read it does pick up. You will also find that this is a long read, however there is a reason for it...for in your reading it all will be explained to what is going on in the mind of Desdemona. We find that Desdemona(Dez)Hart Spaulding has stopped her career in New York in Art to take care of her dying father...gets married...and she wants to devote her life in the theater in town. This was the time of the 'Great Depression' had struck and her father had lost everything except the playhouse. Her father dies(two months after Dez's wedding) leaving her a secret that was in 'Portia's casket' not to be open until the Playhouse reopened. What was up with that? To find out you will have to pick up "Cascade" to see what was in Dez's fathers mind at that time.


    Desdemona now realizes she is in a loveless marriage. Her husband, Asa Spaulding was a hard working pharmacist, but not one for passion and he had no eye for art which his wife had a deep passion for. What will come of this? The town of Cascade is in the 'in the running to be destroyed so that it can become a reservoir for Boston.' Now, what would happen to the playhouse that had been willed to Asa or their first born? What was up with Dez being so consumed with herself and her wants? Dez was a complex heroine that kept this novel moving really giving the reader a lots to think about...'Cascade postcards.' I did realize that this was not a fast pace read but a slower pace one that was needed in order to absorb this detail oriented artistic realism of Dez. As time passed, Dez has fallen in love with a Jewish painter(Jacob). Was he a artist ready, willing and able to free her? From the read we find Dez doesn't want any children and their is a definitely envy of her friend Abby who was free to go and do as she pleased. Truly Art is her everything. She loved her art ... in her studio... paints putting in all on canvas. Now, this novel is really taking off and this is where I say you must pick up "Cascade" to see how this author will take you on a ride through this read. It really gets even more interesting with a few more people. The characters were all well developed keeping you turning the pages to see what would happen next because there will be twist and turns. In the end you do get answers about the 'Portia Casket' and all I will say of that is Wow!


    "Cascade" was a very intriguing read of a small towns 'life during the Great Depression, a artist struggle and in the end was it all worth it? Would I recommend as a excellent read? YES!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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