The Day the Falls Stood Still

The Day the Falls Stood Still

3.8 259
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
     
 

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Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her

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Overview

Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating--and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him--against her family's strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set against the backdrop of WWI and Niagara Falls, this debut tells the story of young Bess Heath and her struggle to navigate a quickly modernizing world. A child of privilege, Bess sees her fortunes change when her father loses his job. Cast into poverty, her family disgraced, Bess tries to hold things together while her sister slips into depression, her father drinks and her mother withdraws. After another tragedy strikes, Bess finds comfort in the love of Tom Cole, a river man with a mysterious connection to the falls. Overcoming the deep privation of the war and their own limited means, the two begin building a life together and renew their commitment to each other and their family. Based loosely on the history of Niagara river man William “Red” Hill, the book incorporates mock newspaper articles with limited success, but does integrate some detailed depictions of domestic life and fascinating natural history into an otherwise uneventful romance. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Buchanan's first novel illuminates the beginnings of hydroelectric power in Canada during World War I. Fortunes are made and lost on electricity supplied by Niagara Falls, and Bess's family suffers particularly—her father loses his job at the local electric powerhouse, and her sister Isabel loses both her rich fiancé and her life, drowning in the river. Bess and her mother turn to tailoring to make ends meet, and Bess continues with her work when her naturalist husband, Tom, goes off to fight. Returning from the war, Tom goes to work for the electric company to support the family, although he deplores the effect of the generators on the Niagara River. In the end, this conflict between the natural world and progress leads to tragedy. VERDICT Historical fiction readers will appreciate the excellent period detail, especially the depiction of the era's social mores, and the romance between Bess and Tom is also a high point.—Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Lib., Lexington Park, MD
Kirkus Reviews
First novel offers a romantic take on Niagara Falls life in the early 20th century, complete with old photographs to buttress the nostalgic mood. In 1915, Bess Heath's father is fired as director of the Niagara Power Company and the family finances crumble. Her mother supports the family with dressmaking. Bess must leave her private school. Worst of all, Bess's sister Isabel is dumped by her fiance and sinks into a serious depression. Financial salvation seems at hand when Edward, the dull brother of Bess's best friend, comes courting. Isabel flirts outrageously, but Edward proposes to Bess. Under parental pressure she accepts, although she has already begun a shy romance with Tom. He is deemed inappropriate not only because he's working-class but because of the nature of his work; he's a river man who retrieves "floaters"-drowned bodies. Shortly before Bess's wedding, Isabel drowns herself. When Tom finds the body, he helps Bess hide Isabel's pregnancy. Propelled by grief and flaunting convention, Bess breaks off with Edward to marry Tom, who shortly thereafter goes off to World War I. These early scenes are the novel's most engrossing. Once Tom returns the book moves more quickly and shallowly. Tom recovers from his traumatic war experience by performing acts of bravery at the Falls. Although he takes a job at the Hydro-Electric Power Commission to support their growing family, he doesn't believe the progress electricity offers is worth the price to the environment and eventually quits to become an activist. Meanwhile, Bess and Tom's little boy Jesse is as drawn to the river as Tom. The spiritual connection Tom, Jesse and Bess feel to the river takes on mystical dimensions. Aftertragedy strikes, the uplifting ending has a decidedly religious tinge. Buchanan's prose is elegant, but sentimentality limits her achievement. Agent: Dorian Karchmar/William Morris Agency
From the Publisher
"As much a love story between author and river as between star-crossed central characters." —USA Today

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781401394752
Publisher:
Hachette Books
Publication date:
08/25/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
61,761
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Then I notice the faint rumble of the Niagara River rumbling through the gorge, I move closer, to the front of our property, and listen to the Whirlpool Rapids far below. I stand with my eyes shut, imagining great waves of surging green crashing and toppling to masses of frothy white. When I open my eyes, the fellow who carried my trunk is passing along River Road, likely returning from his camp at the whirlpool. He tips his cap, and I quickly turn away, embarrassed at the thought of myself a moment earlier, listening to the river.

As I reach for the screen door, I look over my shoulder intending to wave but, too late, see only his back. Three fair-size fish hang from a line slung over his shoulder. His bedroll swings back and forth in time with his gait. When he is far enough away that I can no longer tell his collar from his cap, I see him look back toward Glenview. I wave, and it seems he nods, though I cannot say for sure.

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From the Publisher
"As much a love story between author and river as between star-crossed central characters." —-USA Today

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