Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

Published by Viking, August 2012 ****

Initially, this book did not capture my attention whatsoever.  I found the first pages to be somewhat disjointed and uncertain.  Once the plot started taking shape and things started falling into place, the flow got considerably better.  The story takes place in Cascade, Massachusetts, where artist Dez is living with her new pharmacist husband, Asa and her father, the proprietor of the now closed Shakespearian theater.  It is revealed that Dez has settled into her life with Asa strictly to provide security for her father during the Depression.  At first, I found Dez’s motives to be entirely selfish and therefore couldn’t sympathize with her discontent.  When her father dies and she falls in love with another man, I began to see why she would feel stifled by her convenient marriage and life in a small town. When the state decides that Cascade will be the site of a new reservoir to fulfill Boston’s water needs, Dez’s aspirations finally have an outlet in the form of a magazine serial chronicling the fate of the town.

There’s a lot going on in this book: Dez’s painting and her ambition to immerse herself in the art scene of a big city, her relationships with Asa and the object of her desire, Jacob, and the future of her father’s theater and of Cascade. Despite so many key plot points, at times I felt like nothing was happening.  I think the 2nd third of the book could have been tighter and more refined.  I felt like Dez was an unreliable (3rd person) narrator, being too emotional, unrealistic about Jacob, and bent on sabotaging her own happiness.

It’s not until the final third of the book that I finally clicked with Dez and the book redeemed itself.  As Dez grows comfortable with herself, O’Hara’s writing becomes more confident and solid.  Without spoiling the outcome, I finally understood Dez, the decisions she made, whether good or bad, and why her destiny was meant for more than Cascade, Asa, and Jacob.  I was satisfied with the conclusion and was pleased that Dez could reflect on the events of her life without remorse.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours.

Check out Maryanne’s website, blog, and Facebook page!

For an awesome Depression era novel, I recommend The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman.

7 responses to “Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

  1. Sometimes it seems as though a character is intentionally disconnected to allow you to “get it” later, though I’m not sure that happens here – I’d have to read it to be know, of course, but your words make me think twice (I’ve been considering reading it for a few weeks). Good review!

  2. Julie, thanks so much for your thoughtful review. And thanks for sticking with it, when it didn’t initially click with you. our ‘final third’ comments reminded me of some of my own reactions to certain books, most notably to Cold Mountain, and On Chesil Beach. The endings of both those books completely colored the way I looked back on the previous pages.

    I was just telling another blogger that the range of reactions to Dez has been quite extreme. A reporter who is also a psychologist was interviewing me last week and we got to talking about the subject. A 20-minute interview turned into 90 minutes as we discussed why certain kinds of people love Dez right from the start, and others really dislike her.

    Thank you again, and happy holidays!

  3. I, too, will be reading this. It’s on my coffee table in a to-read pile. Probably, I’ll feel as you do. I tend to be critical.

  4. Thank you for reading, techeditor. I hope it gives you a lot to think about.

    I used to be a tech editor too…

  5. I’m glad that things clicked for you in the end – that makes for a much more satisfying conclusion in my mind.🙂

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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