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Cascade: A Novel by Maryanne O'Hara
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Cascade: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Maryanne O'Hara

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1662071,708 (3.97)6
Member:WisteriaLeigh
Title:Cascade: A Novel
Authors:Maryanne O'Hara
Info:Viking Adult (2012), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library, ARC
Rating:****1/2
Tags:historical fiction, HNR, ARC, Massachusetts, 1935, Theater, relationships, flooding towns, prejudice, social issues

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Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

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Devour this book and savor it at once. You will not be disappointed.

Cascade is the culmination of the artistic viewpoint of the world triumphing over as many obstacles as an artist can endure. Faced with a rushed marriage, encountering a soulmate of a stranger, and possible elimination of the town she grew up in, Desdemona Spaulding becomes embroiled in the attempts to save Cascade from total destruction.

What makes this novel stand out is the way O'Hara treats artistic enterprise as of primary concern to the artist no matter the situation in which she may find herself. O'Hara also manages to meld as intriguing a plot into Dez's ruminations on creating art as any I have ever read. Pulsing with both the lush life that teems within small towns, the novel is part mystery but wholly literary fiction. O'Hara's treatment of 1930's Americana deserves as wide an audience as the novels of Richard Russo. The small town aspect of the novel is reminiscent of Russo's Mohawk or Empire Falls and the towns of other American chroniclers -- Mary McGarry Morris, Ron Rash, and Jane Smiley.

Yet Dez is also attracted to Europe and that beacon of interest to so many artists of all generations -- New York City.

Find out yourself Dez' solution to balancing art and life, duty and desire, the home fires and the siren call of the creative impulse. Let Cascade engulf you. ( )
  TimDel | Feb 2, 2017 |
I grabbed this book from my TBR shelf at random after finishing A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock and ended up putting it aside to read something else between them; it was too similar for a back to back read. Cascade is set in a small, fictional Massachusetts town in the Great Depression and follows the story of one Desdemona Hart, a woman who married her husband in order to take care of her dying father. Now that her father is gone, she’s struggling- to be happy with a man she doesn’t love and who doesn’t understand her and her passion for painting, to figure out how to save her father’s closed theater in the midst of the Great Depression as the threat of destruction returns to their little town- the state needs a reservoir, and it looks like the little town of Cascade will be the one destroyed in order to create it. Like Brock’s work, I find myself unable to connect with the adulterous protagonist. The style of prose is almost distant; not quite aloof but not in the moment, either. Time passes, Dez makes mistakes and choices, and by the end she’s still in love with a man who is not her husband. The entire resolution is disappointing and unsatisfying- the author, through Dez, notes that a long held mystery is always a let-down in the mere revealing of it, but the secret in Portia’s casket- a prop from the theater and a box the dying father gives to his only child, to open when the theater is reopened- leaves a hollow feeling in my stomach.

The piece also falls flat for me because despite being set primarily during the Great Depression, the period never really seems to touch the protagonist’s life too deeply; the story could be set in almost any other time period, I think, and not be better or worse for it. I think that in a period piece, the period needs to be important, it needs to be a vital character in the narration, or else why bother? Maybe it would feel more present if I were as familiar with the 30s as some other periods- but then, the average reader is not going to be an expert on any given period, and shouldn’t need to be, for a work to speak to them. If I could assign this book a particular moment, it would be something to read on a bleakly grey day, where there’s rain promised but it never comes, where a restless mind just needs something to tug it along. A decent read, but nothing that will stay with me. ( )
  stormyhearted | Dec 29, 2016 |
This is a look club selection. Not what I would normally read. However, I liked it better than I expected. It seemed a bit melodramatic and predictable at first but had a real life feel about how choices and fate can affect us all. ( )
  becka11y2 | Jan 19, 2016 |
Maryanne O'Hara's debut novel, Cascade, is a beautifully written tale of sacrifice, desire and trying to find one's place in the world. Set in small town Cascade, Massachusetts during the Great Depression, Cascade is the story of Dez Spaulding, a newlywed who realizes too late that the life she has begun to carve out for herself, one chosen primarily to secure the well-being of her bankrupt father, is not the life she wants. A former student of art with big dreams, Dez finds little satisfaction in her role as homemaker. But it is not until the unexpected death of her father and the arrival of fellow artist Jacob Solomon in Cascade that Dez begins to question her chosen path. When Cascade is identified as the frontrunner to be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston, Dez comes to view the possible destruction of the town as an opportunity to create a new life for herself. While the town fights to stay alive, Dez is caught between her desire to follow her dreams and fulfilling her husband and society's expectations of her.

One of the greatest strengths of Cascade is O'Hara's ability to bring small-town, Depression-era America to life. While Dez's situation is secure due to her husband's profession as a pharmacist, many of Cascade's citizens are struggling to make ends meet and the hard-times have left the town a shadow of its former self. I thought the characters to be well-drawn, particularly Dez, whose internal conflict is clearly evident. While I didn't always agree with the choices Dez made, especially those that hurt other people, and I was often frustrated by her, she is a sympathetic character. In the 1930s, the opportunities afforded to women for a career and independence were few, and for this reason I can't really fault Dez for marrying Asa even though she wasn't in love with him. Another aspect of this novel that I appreciated was the incorporation of historical detail that conveys to the reader the events taking place in Europe, events that would lead to the start World War II.

While I liked this novel immensely, Cascade is not a book I would describe as an enjoyable read. In fact, the strongest emotion this novel evoked from me was sadness - sadness for Cascade and its citizens, sadness for Dez and her husband, and sadness for Jacob.

Recommended to all fans of historical fiction.

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 15, 2016 |
ascade by Maryanne O'Hara was inspired by a real event in Quabbin, Massachusetts. The time was in Great the Depression and Boston was clamoring for more water. The state legislature had to make the determination of which places to submerge with water so a reservoir could be created. You can read more about the real town on the author's website.

Desdemona Hart Spaulding had married so that her beloved father, William and the rest of her family could survive the Depression. Yet she was always yearning to be well known artist and be independent. When her father died in their house, he left the town's playhouse to her husband. Previously, the playhouse had been very popular with its presentations of Shakespeare's plays. But now the playhouse might be submerged with the rest of the town if Cascade didn't win over Whistling Falls for survival.

This is a tale based on history of love, fate, and whether anything is really permanent.

I loved this book. I didn't always agree with Des's decision but I could not stop reading and also wondering about the stories of the people who lost Quabbin.

I highly recommend this historical fiction to all my friends and am very eager to read more from Maryanne O'Hara in the future. ( )
  Carolee888 | Jun 28, 2013 |
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During his final days, William Hart was haunted by drowning dreams.
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Book description
1935: Desdemona Hart Spaulding was an up-and-coming Boston artist when she married in haste and settled in the small, once-fashionable theater town of Cascade to provide a home for her dying father. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide water for Boston, and Dez's discontent is complicated by her growing attraction to a fellow artist. When tragic events unfold, Dez is forced to make difficult choices. Must she keep her promises? Is it morally possible to set herself free?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670026026, Hardcover)

During the 1930s, in a town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife with artistic promise must choose between duty and desire
Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set within the context of the Depression, NYC during Roosevelt's New Deal era, and the approaching World War.

1935:  Desdemona Hart Spaulding was an up-and-coming Boston artist when she married in haste and settled in the small, once-fashionable theater town of Cascade to provide a home for her dying father. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide water for Boston, and Dez's discontent is complicated by her growing attraction to a fellow artist. When tragic events unfold, Dez is forced to make difficult choices. Must she keep her promises? Is it morally possible to set herself free?

"What do we have to give up to be whom we yearn to be?  CASCADE unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy, with an ending you won't see coming. Much like a drowned town, the novel becomes something that you can't take your eyes from or stop thinking about in wonder.The Boston Globe

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Struggling to preserve her family's theater and married to a man desperate for children, would-be artist Desdemona Hart of 1935 Massachusetts is drawn to creative newcomer Jacob Solomon, who is wrongly implicated by anti-Semitic townspeople after a murder.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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