Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Floodby Jame Richards
Sixteen-Year-Old Celstia spends every summer with her family at the elite resort at Lake Conemaugh, a shimmering Allegheny Mountain reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Tired of the society crowd, Celestia prefers to swim and fish with Peter, the hotel’s hired boy. It’s a friendship she must keep secret, and when companionship turns to romance, it
Sixteen-Year-Old Celstia spends every summer with her family at the elite resort at Lake Conemaugh, a shimmering Allegheny Mountain reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Tired of the society crowd, Celestia prefers to swim and fish with Peter, the hotel’s hired boy. It’s a friendship she must keep secret, and when companionship turns to romance, it’s a love that could get Celestia disowned. These affairs of the heart become all the more wrenching on a single, tragic day in May, 1889. After days of heavy rain, the dam fails, unleashing 20 million tons of water onto Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the valley below. The town where Peter lives with his father. The town where Celestia has just arrived to join him. This searing novel in poems explores a cross-class romance—and a tragic event in U. S. history.
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Three Rivers RisingA Novel of the Johnstown Flood
By Jame Richards
Knopf Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2010 Jame Richards
All right reserved.
South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club
Father says he comes for the fishing, but in truth he comes to keep an eye on other businessmen. I have never seen him hook a worm or tie a fly. I cannot imagine him gutting a fish or scraping scales. The only scales he knows are for banking and shipping. But his partners and rivals decided it was time for fresh air, exercise, peace and quiet, away from the filth and crowds of the city. So, even at this pastoral lakeside resort, my father will not miss even the glimmer of a business deal spoken over rifles or fishing reels.
Mother likes the sociability of the other ladies though they cut her with their tongues. She does not always follow their jokes but laughs along. The gentlemen come to hunt animals; the ladies come to hunt other ladies of a weaker sort.
Estrella shines--glossy dark eyelashes and smooth pink cheeks. My parents' favorite, and, at nineteen, my senior by three years. She starts each day in a steamer chair with plaid blankets and a book. She plays the part of the lovesick sweetheart--her beau, Charles, learns the family business back home in Pittsburgh-- but her natural buoyancy is not longrepressed. Fun always knows where to find her. Just now, an errant croquet ball rolls under her chair. She laughs and runs to the game, the dappled sunlight, and the jovial golden boys. Handsome Frederick meets her halfway, extending his arm. Frederick with his shock of blond hair, broad shoulders, and skin glowing with health . . . Poor old Charles with his consumptive cough better arrive soon if he wants to find his intended still betrothed. He cannot compete with the gaiety and romance of our sparkling little lake in the mountains.
Now about me--if I am not the fun-loving beauty, then I must be the serious one, the one who would toss the croquet ball back, wave and sigh, but be infinitely more fascinated with my book than with the superficial cheer of the society crowd. The one who gets the joke but does not tolerate it. The one who baits the hook and guts the fish with Peter, the hired boy.
Papa says, "It's unnatural-- lakes weren't meant to be so high in the mountains, up over all our heads. Rich folks think they know better than God where a lake oughta be."
He's talking about South Fork Reservoir, miles of icy creek water held in place above our valley by a seventy-foot earthen dam.
The owners call it Lake Conemaugh. They raised it up from a puddle, built fancy-trim houses all in a row and a big clubhouse on the shore, stocked it with fish, and now they bring their families in from Pittsburgh every summer season. Most of them stay in the clubhouse, like an oversized hotel with wide hallways, a huge dining room, and a long front porch across the whole thing. Dozens of windows, too, so every room has a view of the reservoir--I mean, the lake.
Papa says, "They can't stack up enough money against all that water."
"Oh, Papa." I wave off the idea. Everybody in Johnstown kids each other about the dam breaking. We laugh because it always holds. Papa says we're laughing off our fear. Folks think he's something of a crank for always bringing it up.
I don't say anything more--at least until I can think how to tell him the sportsmen's club up at the reservoir is my new boss.
Papa says, "Don't go up there. Being around all those rich folks'll only give you ideas of things you can't have."
He looks at Mama's picture. I know he's thinking of ideas she had for things he couldn't give her. That was before she went to rest underground in the cemetery on the hill.
Papa works underground in a different hill, digging coal for the Cambria Iron Works. Papa says the mines are graveyards, too, only without the resting and the peace. His tears are black and his cough is black.
I try not to smile. "I bet I won't hardly see any rich folks, they'll have me working so hard, planting and pruning and lugging stuff around." I see him considering but I pretend to give in. "Oh, okay, Papa, I'll just come to work with you, then. Ask the foreman to find me a spot on the line." He shakes his head, coughing over his grumbling. "No, you go up where the air is clean." We both know, now that I've turned sixteen, I'll be in the mills soon enough, putting in ten-hour days or more on the Iron Works payroll. Why not have one last summer of sun and fish?
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards Copyright © 2010 by Jame Richards. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Jame Richards lives in Monroe, Connecticut. This is her first novel.
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Johnstown is a quiet, unassuming home for many. During the summer, the residents travel a short distance to the country club to work and earn money. The rich folk spend their summers at the club swimming and relaxing. All seems well for this small area. In the back of everyone's mind, however, is the dam. Rich men created the dam in order to build a man-made lake. After a heavy rain, news spreads that the dam is breaking, which threatens to wash out Johnstown and all of the outlying cities. Will new and old loves alike be torn apart? Can the residents survive this terrible flood? If history makes you cringe, have no worries. THREE RIVERS RISING is light on the facts, instead focusing on the storytelling and prose. The main characters are Peter, a poor worker, and Celestia, a rich girl staying at the club. Their romance is forbidden, but they can't stay away from each other. After a dramatic turn of events involving Celestia's sister, their love becomes even more risky. The two struggle to be together, but obstacles abound. Though written in prose, I found the characters easy to connect with. You couldn't help but hope that each and every character ended up being okay. While the flood is a major part of this book, there is more to it than that. The first half or so is composed of love stories and the struggles that each couple faces. I enjoyed the novel for both of its parts. The combination of prose and historical fiction was very interesting, and I look forward to seeing more from Richards. I recommend this book to lovers of poetry, romance, or historical fiction. The novel is touching and sincere. Told in alternating perspectives, THREE RIVERS RISING is about so much more than a flood. It's about love, loss, and forgiveness.
I was surprised by how fast i managed to read this book! But of course, it would have to be due to the fact that it is written in verse form. In Three Rivers Rising we learn about the events that lead to the famous historical event of the Johnstown Flood of 1889, through the different views of the fictional characters: Celestia, Peter, Maura, Kate and Celestia's father. We are first introduced to Celestia, a 16 year old is who is vacationing with her family at an elite resort at Lake Conemaugh. Celestia prefers to be left alone with her books then to be socializing with the other guest at the resort. As she is sitting under a tree by the lake, with a book in her hands, she is then first introduced to Peter, a young boy from one of the small towns near by who has taken up a job at the resort for the summer. A bond is formed between the two at that moment which then grows throughout the story. Celestia has an older sister, Estrella who is aware of Celestia's and Peter's secret and we learn that Estrella has a secret of her own which will cause for the summer to end quickly for Peter and Celestia. Not to mention the fact that during this time period, girls of society were not allowed to be with young man who were not a part of their rank in society. Not only does the drastic end for the summer for Peter and Celestia challenge their time together, but the risk that Celestia could be disowned from her family makes matters much trickier. As the story continues we then learn about Kate, a young woman who is a trained nurse and is helping within the nursing school she attended, teaching and lending a hand to the students. Maura is the other character we are introduced, she is a young girl married to a man who runs a train in one of the towns. She is a mother of 2 children, with another one on the way. A whole year passes and falls back once again into a new summer. But this summer will definetely be one to remember, as the flood will change many lives forever. I've read verse written books before (Mainly the ones from Ellen Hopkins) and i think that if written right, they can definetely leave a much more personal impact on the reader. In Three Rivers Rising, i believe that the author managed to do that, but not in a strong way. I think that there wasn't a need to have alot of different characters narrating the story, i felt that it took away that magic found in verse stories, even though in this story, the characters become connected near the end. I did like the romance between Celestia and Peter, especially Celestia! She is not a damsel in distress cliche' found in books written during this specific time period! She's strong and cares about her family! Even though she has feelings for Peter. She is aware of her choices and she can think and make her own decisions! Not to mention i really like her name, the author picked some pretty cool names for the characters: Celestia and Estrella. For anyone who is a fan of Verse written stories or Historical fiction, or perhaps a quick read! Pick up this book!
Three Rivers Rising is a book that, to be honest, I probably never would have picked up to read on my own. That would have been a mistake. I wasn't sure what to make of a book written entirely in poetry. Let me tell you, from the moment this thing arrived on my doorstep today I couldn't put it down. I even carried it down with me for dinner, something I haven't done since I was a very little girl. The words flow so naturally. It's almost like I forgot I was reading something other than what I'm used to, but at the same time I was aware somewhere in the back of my mind how much more beauty and meaning there was than if it had been written just like any other book. The story here is fairly typical, and I think that's part of the charm. Rich girl falls for the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Celestia and Peter's love story is at the heart of this book, but there are other narrators that give little pieces of their own story as well. I think that experiencing this tragedy through so many different perspectives really changes how it affects you. The entire time you're reading this, you know that disaster is lurking right around the corner for them all. Still, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out how everyone's story intertwines, waiting for the flood to come, and ultimately waiting to find out the fates of these wonderful characters that I'd grown to love. This book has none of the pretension I've found in some other works recently, where authors can stumble over their words to convey the emotions of their characters. You won't find yourself lost in endless descriptions of the scenery or the over-analytical thoughts of an angst-ridden teenager (not that those things are always bad). Instead, what you have here is pure, raw emotion. The way that Ms. Richards wrote this book puts a completely different filter on things than I'm used to - than I think anyone who frequents the YA genre is used to - and I found it so refreshing. Overall, I'd say this is an amazing, substantial debut and one that I wouldn't hesitate to share with my own (future) kids one day. And that's really saying something. Check out my other YA reviews at http://www.thebookbanshee.com