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Tom Cole, the grandson of a legendary local hero, has inherited an uncanny knack for reading the Niagara River's whims and performing daring feats of rescue at the mighty falls. And like the tumultuous meeting of the cataract's waters with the rocks below, a chance encounter between Tom and 17-year-old Bess Heath has an explosive effect. When they first meet on a trolley platform, Bess immediately recognizes the chemistry between them, and the feeling is mutual.
But the hopes of young love are constrained by the 1915 conventions of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Tom's working-class pedigree doesn't suit Bess's family, despite their recent fall from grace. Sacked from his position at a hydroelectric power company, Bess's father has taken to drink, forcing her mother to take in sewing for the society women who were once her peers. Bess pitches in as she pines for Tom, but at her young age, she's unable to fully realize how drastically her world is about to change.
Set against the resounding backdrop of the falls, Cathy Marie Buchanan's carefully researched, capaciously imagined debut novel entwines the romantic trials of a young couple with the historical drama of the exploitation of the river's natural resources. The current of the river, like that of the human heart, is under threat: "Sometimes it seems like the river is being made into this measly thing," says Tom, bemoaning the shortsighted schemes of the power companies. "The river's been bound up with cables and concrete and steel, like a turkey at Christmastime."
Skillfully portraying individuals, families, a community, and an environment imperiled by progress and the devastations of the Great War, The Day the Falls Stood Still beautifully evokes the wild wonder of its setting, a wonder that always overcomes any attempt to tame it. But at the same time, Buchanan's tale never loses hold of the gripping emotions of Tom and Bess's intimate drama. The result is a transporting novel that captures both the majesty of nature and the mystery of love.
About the Author
Born and bred in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the setting of The Day the Falls Stood Still, Cathy Marie Buchanan grew up "awash in the lore of William 'Red' Hill, Niagara’s most famous riverman," as she explains in the Author's Note that concludes her book. Like her character Tom Cole and his grandfather Fergus before him, the historical Red Hill could read the river with preternatural apprehension, anticipating shifts in the weather and sensing when people would be trapped by winds and water. In all, Hill saved 29 people and countless animals from drowning. The Day the Falls Stood Still was inspired by two of Hill's heroic rescues, which Buchanan thrillingly recreates.
The author’s fascination with the lore and legends of the falls is complemented by her interest in the economic and industrial forces at work in the region at the dawn of the hydroelectric era. Also prevalent is Buchanan's meticulous research into the apparel, furnishings, and customs of the social milieu Bess Heath is forced -- by circumstance and for love -- to leave behind.
A recipient of grants from both the Toronto and the Ontario Arts Councils, Cathy Marie Buchanan is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. She has published fiction in The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The New Quarterly, Quarry, and Descant. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband and three sons. The Day the Falls Stood Still is her first novel.
From Our Booksellers
With Niagara Falls as the backdrop, this intelligent tale of a woman's strength, and the riverman whose bravery and passion sweep her away, is an unforgettable story of love and family, greed, and hardship. Not to be missed! --Margie Turkett, Annapolis, MD
Definitely the best book I've read this year! I could almost feel the mist wafting from Niagara Falls! --Suzzé Tiernan, Bloomfield Hills, MI
A wrenching chronicle of the harnessing and destruction of Niagara Falls that paints a poignant picture of a natural wonder we'll never know. Cathy Marie Buchanan has created a moving story linking the dramatic changes experienced by a young woman with the industrialization of the great Niagara Falls. --Debra Francis, Denver, CO
A compelling and beautiful story of a woman with pluck and a heart as big as the river itself. I loved it even as I cried!
--Amber Stubblefield, Ellicott City, MD