Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood

Overview

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 ...

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Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Threads of romance and class run through this striking novel in verse, set against the 1889 Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania. Debut author Richards alternates among several teenagers and adults whose lives intersect before, during, and after the disaster. In the most prominent story line, 16-year-old Celestia (“if I am not the fun-loving beauty,/ then I must be the serious one”) and her family enjoy peaceful summers at the Lake Conemaugh resort until her spirited older sister becomes pregnant and Celestia falls in love with a hired hand, enraging their parents. Maura's narrative focuses on her home life—she has three children by age 17 (“How can a house full of babies feel empty?”)—and her determination as the flood hits. And Kate's story follows her arduous journey to become a nurse after the death of her first love, as well as her role in the rescue when typhoid breaks out. Richards builds strong characters with few words and artfully interweaves the lives of these independent thinkers. Celestia's taboo relationship feels dramatic and sweeping, while the various minute-by-minute accounts during the flood are painful and immediate. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly
Threads of romance and class run through this striking novel in verse, set against the 1889 Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania. Debut author Richards alternates among several teenagers and adults whose lives intersect before, during, and after the disaster. In the most prominent story line, 16-year-old Celestia (“if I am not the fun-loving beauty,/ then I must be the serious one”) and her family enjoy peaceful summers at the Lake Conemaugh resort until her spirited older sister becomes pregnant and Celestia falls in love with a hired hand, enraging their parents. Maura's narrative focuses on her home life—she has three children by age 17 (“How can a house full of babies feel empty?”)—and her determination as the flood hits. And Kate's story follows her arduous journey to become a nurse after the death of her first love, as well as her role in the rescue when typhoid breaks out. Richards builds strong characters with few words and artfully interweaves the lives of these independent thinkers. Celestia's taboo relationship feels dramatic and sweeping, while the various minute-by-minute accounts during the flood are painful and immediate. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
VOYA - Bethany Martin
While the subtitle of this book is A Novel of the Johnstown Flood, this verse novel is, at its heart, the story of star-crossed lovers. Celestia and Peter meet and fall in love at a resort for Pittsburgh's elite, where Celestia is vacationing and Peter is working. The pair is soon separated by family drama and class constraints. Just when Celestia has decided to choose love over family and privilege, a dam—owned by the resort—breaks, flooding the valley below and tearing the pair apart yet again. Throughout the story, Celestia's father and two women from the valley relate their experiences; their stories are woven into the main Celestia/Peter narrative. The verse format allows for multiple perspectives and works well for expressing the intense and raw emotions of both falling in love and surviving a devastating disaster. This book is ripe with possibilities for class discussion. Besides the historical occurrence of the flood, social and economic class divisions are addressed. Comparisons can also be drawn to the causes and consequences of more recent man-made and environmental disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Use the book to support curriculum, or give it to teens in search of a quick, engrossing romance. This is a strong choice for any collection serving young adults. Reviewer: Bethany Martin
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In late 19th-century Pennsylvania, 16-year-old Celestia spends summer vacations with her family at an exclusive club at Lake Conemaugh in this novel (Knopf/Borzoi, 2010) by Jame Richards. She is all too aware of the seemingly inflexible barriers between classes, but can't help falling in love with Peter, an employee at the club. Their story is at the center of this poignant novel in verse, which unfolds during the summers of 1888 and 1889, climaxing with the tragic Johnstown Flood. Augmenting the romance are the stories of Maura, a young wife and mother of four; Kate, a nurse still grieving the loss of her first love; and Whitcombe, Celestia's father. An ensemble cast performs, led by Eileen Stevens and Joshua Swanson as Celestia and Peter. The well-cast narrator shine in the descriptions of their characters' individual experiences as they are swept up, some literally, in the disaster. Matching their pace to the rhythm of the verse, they skillfully bring listeners along until they, too, are caught up in this moving story. An author's note explores Richards's motivations for writing the story, and there's a chronology of the South Fork Dam and the devastation of the Johnstown Flood.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375858857
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 4/13/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,009,817
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jame Richards lives in Monroe, Connecticut. This is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

Three Rivers Rising

A Novel of the Johnstown Flood
By Jame Richards

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2010 Jame Richards
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375958854

South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club
Lake Conemaugh 
   
Celestia    

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.      

Peter    

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.

Continues...

Excerpted from Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards Copyright © 2010 by Jame Richards. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 4 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by McKenzie Tritt for TeensReadToo.com

    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.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    Three Rivers Rising

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted May 22, 2010

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    Posted April 27, 2011

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