Saturday, September 12, 2009

my fourth early reviewer!

Before I read The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan I was worried it would follow the typical romance plot: boy meets girl, they fall in love, there is some miscommunication which causes them to break up, then there is something that brings them back together and they live happily ever after. Up to about page 70 I was also worried that the story would be identical to The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Let's review the checklist:
2 sisters, one cute, one regular - check
war time backdrop - check
rich family hits hard times - check
dad becomes alcoholic as a result - check
sister love triangle - check
one sister is expected to marry for money and save the family - check
something happens to one sister which is sort of a spoiler so I won't tell you - check

But after the groundwork was laid, the 2 stories become completely different. The Day the Falls Stood Still takes place during WWI in a town along the Niagra Falls on the Canadian side. The main character, the plain sister Bess, falls for a "riverman," Tom Cole. As their love story unfolds, Tom's love of the river, and his desire for conservation as hydroelectric power encroaches the Niagra River, becomes the most interesting aspect. A magical quality surrounds him when it comes to river related matters, just as it did his grandfather and local legend, Fergus Cole.

Another part I enjoyed was following Bess as she has her own existential crisis. I really liked this interaction she has with Tom:

Finally I say, "Every day, one way or another, there are moments when it feels like I'm met head-on by meaninglessness."
Tom has never once set foot in a church and has certainly not bought into any run-of-the-mill view of God; still, I am not surprised when he says, "But there's meaning in everything. In dew. And wind. Even in the birds squawking at dawn."
"The birds squawking?" I say.
"They're calling their mates, and telling the other birds which branch is theirs."
"If the birds couldn't find their mates, pretty soon we'd have no birds."
I shrug.
"Knock out a creature, and a long line of other ones lose their prey."
"And that's proof there's something more than..." I wave my palms through the air.
"That kind of complexity doesn't happen by chance."
What I saw was a deep respect for nature, tinged with awe, not unlike my own for God, back before {spoiler}.

As a hippie type, I felt endeared to the man who is driven by preservation before preservation was cool. The Day the Falls Stood Still is a unique love story in a way I feel The Time Traveler's Wife is: immersing, original, and memorable.

1 comment:

Cathy Marie Buchanan said...

Very interesting comparison to Blind Assassin, one of my favourite books. Thanks for the thoughtful review of my debut novel.