Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still
by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Published in 2009. 307 pages.

Author Cathy Buchanan contacted me about reading and reviewing her book. She had the publisher send me a complimentary copy of the trade paperback. Thanks, Cathy!

This debut novel - which is a current Salt Lake County Reader's Choice nominee - is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction, set in the early 1900s. I have never visited Niagara Falls, but this book invoked in me such sense of the place that I will need to do that someday.

The novel is divided into two parts. Book 1 - which I think could almost stand on its own as a young adult novel - is primarily the coming-of-age story of seventeen-year-old Bess Heath. This section of the book reminded me in some ways of Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light (which I loved). Here is a favorite passage from that section of the book:
Stays run the length of the side seams; also over the ribs, front and back; and alongside the hooks and eyes of the front opening, and the grommets of the back opening through which the lace is pulled. In my camisole and drawers, I fasten hooks and eyes from just beneath my sternum to well below my hips. I have heard of the fainting and know the complaints, also the rhetoric of the suffragettes, yet a corset is a rite of passage, which places me a step closer to making decisions for myself. As Mother begins to tighten the laces, the irony in such thinking strikes me, and then, with the final tug, any notion linking a corset with independence seems entirely foolish.

Book 2 expands Bess's story into more of a family drama with some exploration of meaningful minor themes, including some that could be considered commentary on current society. These include the conflict between preserving nature and using nature for the benefit of humankind, the impact of war on individuals and families, views on energy and its generation, and condemnation of materialism. I particularly loved some of the thoughts on faith, such as this passage:
I have stood at the brink of the falls, that thin line that separates eternity from time. I have looked for aberrations in the rising mist, those flecks of shimmering silver, those orbs of color a shade more intense than their surroundings that I had once seen from my window seat. I have counted to ten before opening my eyelids, and let my gaze become unfocused, and crossed and uncrossed my eyes, and waited in the mist until I was soaked through to the bone, until it finally occurred to me that faith is believing without proof. Someday I would stop needing proof.

The title of the book is taken from an historical event that took place years before the action of the novel. It is a wonderful metaphor for those moments in life that give us great pause, those events that are so defining as to be a point after which nothing will never be the same as it was before.

Visit Cathy Marie Buchanan's website for more information. You can also follow her on Twitter.

I would love to pass my copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still to another interested reader. Leave a comment if you'd be interested, and I will randomly select one lucky reader from those who comment by Sunday, October 10.



  1. This book sounds amazing! I love your review - you picked amazing passages. I would like to be considered for the pass-along.

  2. Please enter me in the give-away. I thought this book sounded intriguing when you first put it on Goodreads and the review confirms it.

  3. No need to enter me.
    I really enjoyed this story too and gave it five stars in my last post. I live in the area of the Falls and Buchanan got the history and the feel of things just right. This is a book I can recommend to anyone.

  4. Thanks for the reviewing The Day the Falls Stood Still. I can see that you are a thoughtful reader.

  5. Pick me! I've been there AND...the park ranger in me wants to know about the preserving nature vs. using nature stuff. If chosen, could you bring it to the next class? Hey, maybe you could choose someone else who could get it read by then. It's okay if I don't win. Really. :)

  6. Thanks! for the great review of this book!

  7. I figured I'd be in the minority not liking it. The paperback cover is pretty, I hadn't seen it before. :)

  8. Britt: Have you read The Postmistress yet? I think I'm going to be in the minority on not liking that one. (I'll get my review posted shortly.)

    I do love this cover of The Day the Falls Stood Still!

  9. I haven't yet, it's been a hard one to get ahold of, but I'm picking it up next time I get to the library.

    Actually I was looking over the list of voting results at the Riverton library and there were at least a few "did not like" votes for The Postmistress.

  10. This sounds great. I LOVED our visit to the falls a few years ago and this would be a fun way to get that same feeling back!

    Wish me luck...:)

  11. I'd love to get my hands on a copy of this book. Hopefully I'm lucky! :D