At the age of seventeen, as she is finishing her junior year at high school in 1915, Bess Heath's father loses his job as Director of the Niagara Power Company. As she returns home from boarding school, the realities of the family's situation begin to sink in. Bess's mother comes to fetch her alone, without her father or the car. They make their way home by streetcar, lugging Bess's heavy trunk. A young working man gets off when they do and offers to carry the trunk up to the house. Bess is smitten immediately.
Life at home has become grim. Bess's father is away all day, drowning his troubles in whiskey. Her older sister, Isabel, is very ill, refusing to eat and wasting away. Her mother has turned to her talent at sewing to provide a small income for the family, who are now living in a house they can't afford. Bess does what she can to assist her mother, sewing and caring for Isabel. The young man who carried the trunk begins to appear on the road daily with his fishing catch, on his way back from the river. He gifts Bess with fish and soon she is eagerly anticipating his visits. Her mother is appalled and insists that Bess stop seeing him.
The young man's name is Tom Cole and he has spent all his life around the river and the famous falls. His grandfather, Fergus, was famous for rescuing people from the falls and for having a kind of intuition where the river was concerned. Tom seems to have inherited his grandfather's gifts and knows the river and falls better than anyone else. So he is extremely unhappy about the plans of the electric companies to harness the power of the river. He knows that it will affect everything about the ecosystems around the water and drop the level of the water, too.
Though she is in love with Tom, Bess buckles under pressure from her parents and agrees to marry an old family friend who can afford to restore Bess to her former lifestyle. Shortly after that, Isabel disappears. Tom is the one who pulls her body from the river and comes to tell Bess. Through her grief, she realizes that she can't live without Tom, no matter what the cost.
With World War I looming and the world changing as the electric age dawns, Bess and Tom start their lives together. Their fate will be intricately entwined with the river and the falls.
First time Canadian novelist Cathy Marie Buchanan won my heart with this love story. I so enjoyed the setting and the way she brought the Niagara river to life until its presence in the book was equal to Bess and Tom, a character in its own right. It is a love story in so many ways: the love between man and wife, parent and child, family members, humans and the natural world. Love of country, too, the author's pride in Canada shines through the passages about the War and its aftermath. The character of Tom is loosely based on the legendary Niagara riverman William "Red" Hill and the story has a realistic feel to it. It could be an old diary you are reading, complete with struggle and despair, joy and elation. An excellent debut novel...I'll be waiting for more from Cathy Marie Buchanan!
The Day the Falls Stood Still made its debut on the New York Times bestseller list at #31! It is published by Voice/Hyperion, ISBN 978-1-4013-4097-1. For more information about the book, please visit the author's website. Here is the trailer:
I have one copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still that will go to one randomly drawn winner! To enter, just leave a comment here that includes your email address. Contest is open to US and Canada residents. You can enter thru midnight eastern time on September 19th. Be sure to check out all the the other fabulous giveaways happening during BBAW, click on the link or the button on the upper left for a complete list! Thanks so much for visiting and entering!