Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review & Giveaway (US Only): Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara


During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made.

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 during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

Penguin Books | April 30, 2013 (trade paperback) | 384 pages

My Review

4 Stars

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. 

Cascade is currently on tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule. 


I'm pleased to offer a giveaway for one paperback copy of Cascade.   Giveaway details are as follows:

-  To enter, simply leave a comment below with your email address
-  The giveaway is open to US residents only
-  The giveaway will run until midnight on May 17th

Good Luck! 

About the Author

Maryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.

To find out more visit Maryanne's website:

post signature