Monday, September 21, 2009

Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still

Summary: 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. -- Voice


I had been looking forward to reading THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL by Cathy Marie Buchanan for quite awhile. I had seen a lot of good buzz about this novel, and I thought that a historical fiction book about Niagara Falls sounded extremely interesting. But then I saw a few blogger reviews that said the book was just okay, and I became a little concerned that this book might not be for me. (Although I kept telling myself that it was a Barnes and Noble Recommends Selection, an Indie Next Pick, and it did make its debut a few weeks ago on the New York Times Best Seller list at #31.)

I actually enjoyed THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL very much. I loved the historical fiction aspect of the story, and I learned a great deal about Niagara Falls. I have only visited Niagara Falls once when I was five years old, so I really don't remember it much at all. Like most people, I have seen the gorgeous pictures of it; but I had no idea of how majestic and dangerous the Falls are. I think awe-inspiring is probably the word that best sums up Niagara Falls for me. Ms. Buchanan did an amazing job incorporating so much of its history into this story, and she really did bring the Falls to life for me. I must say that Niagara Falls became another important character in this story right alongside Bess and Tom.

Another think I appreciated about THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL were how well some of the characters were developed -- especially Bess and Tom. Bess was a young innocent girl who was forced to quit school when her father lost his prestigious job and started drinking too much. She falls in love with Tom, a man who has life-long ties to river, yet he isn't "good enough" for Bess' according to her family. Neither Bess nor Tom were perfect -- both were human and as a result somewhat flawed; however, I loved them and their relationship. There marriage didn't have much support from Bess' family and friends, but they managed to make it work (and it wasn't always easy) because of their connection and love for each other. It was quite a love story!

While I enjoyed how the author tied the character of Tom so closely to the Falls -- both physically and symbolically, I truly loved the character of Bess. Bess faced so much adversity at such a young age; and as a result, she matured so much throughout the course of the novel. I was extremely impressed with her bravery and resilience especially aftere facing so much loss. Over and over again, Bess had to be the strong one in her relationships; and I often found myself thinking she were much older than her actual age. Another thing I especially appreciated about Bess' character was how the author had Bess challenge her faith and religious beliefs. The thoughts and feelings that Bess experienced were so complex, and I found myself really thinking about some of my own beliefs.

As I mentioned earlier, I was extremely impressed with all of the historical facts that were included in this novel. Without a doubt, Ms. Buchanan did a huge amount of research on Niagara Falls and its background. I love that she managed to base some of the incidents in the book on real life people, and I really appreciated the inclusion of actual photographs in the chapters because it just gave the book such a realistic feel. I also enjoyed reading the Author's Notes at the end of the novel because it gave me an even stronger appreciation for some of the stories.

I can totally see book clubs reading THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL and loving it. There are just so many thought-provoking issues in this novel -- from the characters and their actions to the environmental impact of man on the Falls. There are discussion questions available which are very good; however, I know I could talk about this novel for hours without any specific topics. Some issues that I'd like to explore in more detail are faith, God, nature, death and loss, marriage, depression, war, friendships, redemption, and parent/child relationships to name a few.

If you'd like to learn more about the author or the novel, you can check out Ms. Buchanan's website. I found it to be extremely interesting and it definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the novel. While you are there, you can read this Q&A with Ms. Buchanan that answers some of the questions she is most asked by book clubs, or you can read the inspiration behind the book. I also thought the interactive map and the fact or fiction quiz were very interesting as well. Check out this beautiful book trailer:



Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of this book. Make sure you come back tomorrow because I have a great guest post from the author as well as a chance to win your very own copy of THE DAY THE FALLS STOOD STILL.

19 comments:

Molly said...

I have a very good friend who keeps vascillating about this book. I will be thrilled to let her know that you found it enjoyable, and she can take that review to the bank :)

Have a great week!

Mary said...

Nice review! I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

bermudaonion said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one when I get it back. A friend borrowed it and now I'm anxious to get it back from her!

Hazra said...

I've heard a lot about this book.

trishalynn0708 said...

Great review. I love the cover!

Amy Reads Good Books said...

I'm thinking of picking this one up now. Thanks for the review!

Jennifer said...

I have been wanting to read this novel. Thank you for the wonderful review.

Amanda said...

Ooo...I've been wanting to read this one. I can't believe I've lived in NYC for over two years and haven't been to Niagra Falls yet. It's definitely on our to-do list.

Beth F said...

So glad this was a good one for you. I've been to the falls several times and am fascinated with them. I can't wait to read this one too.

mountainsofbooks said...

I saw this novel at B&N recently and I've already got it on hold at the library...your review has just made me more eager to read it!

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I can't wait to get to this one. It's sitting on my TBR stack!

Jo-Jo said...

I also loved this book Julie. I really enjoyed the historical aspect and I was also able to get a very vivid picture of the falls from her descriptions, and I have never been there.

Jen - devourer of books said...

I definitely thought it was better than just okay. It was odd, though, I liked it a lot, but I didn't quite love it.

Nise' said...

I was looking at this book at the library last week and just was not sure if it was for me. After this great review, if I see it again, I will definitely pick it up.

carolsnotebook said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy. I'll have to stop back tomorrow.

Anna said...

I've seen nothing but good reviews of this book. I'm glad to hear you liked it, too. I was a bit uncertain when I received it in the mail, but now I can't wait to read it.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Meghan said...

I liked it but I didn't love it - I'm glad you did though! The historical detail was definitely my favorite part.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I like learning about history thru a well-told novel (always knowing that the history may have been tweaked a bit).

Also, enjoyed the author's guest post on your site today.

This is on my TBR; sounds like a great weekend read for this fall.

Stephanie said...

Excellent review! I especially enjoyed your discussion of the themes in the book. I am linking to this post from my blog.