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Cascade: A Novel Hardcover – August 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman's perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O'Hara's skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new. People Magazine, "PEOPLE PICK"

O'Hara deftly combines several different themes into a cohesive novel about love, ambition, loyalty, and betrayal, with an ironic twist at the end.  --Library Journal

"The protagonist is Desdemona Hart, a woman drowning in the choices she's been forced to make: a marriage of necessity to save her father's legacy and put a roof over his head as he dies......trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages. Cascade is perfect for sitting by the fire on a chilly day contemplating the immutability of things." ----Slate: 2012 Best Books, Staff Picks

When state engineers created the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s, four Central Massachusetts towns disappeared beneath the waters. In her debut novel, Cascade, Maryanne O'Hara chronicles the fate of one such (fictionalized) town and its inhabitants, notably Desdemona Hart Spaulding, an ambitious artist trapped in a loveless marriage. O'Hara, a former Ploughshares fiction editor, shapes her protagonist's story to pose questions like: If art is not lastingly valuable, what is? Ponder that over your next glass of tap water.--Boston Globe, Best of the New, 2012

“CASCADE unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy, with an ending you won’t see coming…The novel becomes something that you can’t take your eyes from or stop thinking about in wonder.”—Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe


“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.” —People 


“I stayed up very late into the night to finish Cascade, captivated by Dez Hart, a woman torn between competing loyalties:  her marriage and her freedom, her sense of responsibility and her desire to live an artist’s fiercely disciplined and passionate life.  Past and place come alive in this book; these characters are richly drawn and complexly human.  Compelling and fascinating, the story unfolds in such unexpected ways, and with such gathering tension, that I couldn’t stop until I’d read the final, beautifully written, line.”—Kim Edwards, New York Times bestselling author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Lake of Dreams


“Maryanne O'Hara weaves as intricate, as theatrical, and as tempestuous a plot as deftly as Prospero. Through the eyes of an artist yearning for a larger life-canvas but constrained by a humdrum marriage in a town careening toward destruction, we see the failings of men and women in their tangled relationships, each member of the cast struggling to find a fulfilling life. Save the town! Save the Shakespearean theater! Save our dreams, we cry out with the players.”—Susan Vreeland, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Clara and Mr. Tiffany


“Maryanne O’Hara’s debut novel of a married woman suffocated by small-town America brings to mind Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. O’Hara’s story is engrossing and her prose luminous as she tells of a talented artist torn between ambition and conformity. Expect to hear more from this remarkable author.”—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale and True Sisters


“Yearning--for a choice, for a love, for a different future--suffuses Maryann O'Hara's atmospheric, accomplished, first novel, the sweeping story of a young woman's struggle to define herself in 1930s Massachusetts.”--Janice Y. K. Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Teacher


“Set in the Great Depression, and tracing the struggle of one woman to make her own choices, Cascade is a rich and absorbing novel for our time. Maryanne O'Hara tells the rare story of a woman, not a man, fueled by ambition, who is prepared to sacrifice everything, including love, for her passion to create art.”—Lily King, author of Father of the Rain


“This is a magnificent literary achievement. The novel carries us with startling authenticity and emotionality as we follow a young woman trying to unfetter herself from the societal strictures of 1930s Massachusetts and liberate her artistic talents in New York City. Finely and expertly wrought, Cascade is absolutely riveting from start to finish.”—Don Lee, author of Country of Origin


“In Cascade Maryanne O'Hara has created a splendid heroine, Desdemona, who does not intend to follow her namesake's example, and a wonderfully intricate plot.  Turning these pages, I felt utterly transported to 1930s Massachusetts; at the same time I was struck by how relevant Desdemona's choices still are.  This is a lovely, intelligent and deeply satisfying novel.”—Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and Eva Moves the Furniture


“Maryanne O’Hara invites the reader into the life of a young artist, Desdemona Hart, whose sacrifice for love spawns a cascade of secrets that threatens not only to undo her, but also a town, a way of life, and the heritage her beloved father has left them all. Rich with painterly image and flickering with desire, Cascade explores how passion—for life, for love, for art—can determine destiny.”--Robin Oliveira, New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter


“When [Desdemona] falls in love with another man…and then a dead body turns up, the trouble escalates, and so will the rate at which you turn the pages.”—Slate

From the Author

As I wrote CASCADE, I had a line by the Seamus Heaney running through my head: You lose more of yourself than you redeem/Doing the decent thing

I wanted CASCADE to explore "what is a decent choice?" and "how does a decent choice differ from a right choice?" and "who decides what is right?"

I wrote many of the Reader's Guide questions and designed them to provoke discussion and argument. Please feel free to contact me on my author page to discuss/Skype, etc.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (August 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026029
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #868,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

As I wrote CASCADE, I had a line by the great Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney running through my head: You lose more of yourself than you redeem/Doing the decent thing. I wanted CASCADE to explore "what is the 'decent' thing" and how does it differ from "the right thing." And who decides what is right?

My characters struggle with reconciling their passions with their responsibilities. They face tough choices in a time period when average people, and the countries they lived in, were forced to make difficult choices.

I hope CASCADE provides readers with plenty to think about, discuss, and maybe even argue about. Thank you for reading.

Other biographical info: I was the longtime associate fiction editor at Ploughshares, Boston's award-winning literary journal. My short fiction has been published in The North American Review, Five Points, Redbook, The Crescent Review, and these anthologies: MicroFiction, Brevity and Echo, The Art of Friction, Sudden Flash Youth, and Fictionality/Reality/ Possibility. I am grateful for grants I received from the St. Botolph Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and to the editors who nominated my stories for Pushcart Prizes. My story collection was a finalist for 2010's Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By bookrunner on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first glance, it's easy to mistake Maryanne O'Hara's compelling debut novel for a sort of woman's romantic novel, given the beauty of the cover, but it isn't at all. Inside that cover lies a great read for anyone, male or female, who loves a smart story. Set in 1930s Massachusetts, "Cascade" is about big change, ambition, mystery, hope, mortality, tradition, a wrong marriage, the possibility of passion, and the cost of pursuing what most matters. This is a dramatic, suspenseful, beautifully written and wise novel that highlights the timelessness of our questions and struggles as people. Read it, pass it around, give it to everyone on your gift list. Wonderful.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Terri DuLong on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's been awhile since I've enjoyed a novel as much as this one. I found it difficult to put down and read it in two days. The story itself has so much...history, fiction based on some fact, a love story, thought-provoking issues and a wonderful plot so beautifully written.

The main character is an artist, but I loved how O'Hara wrote in such a way that many of the things she said could also be attributed to writers or any of the arts. Her writing is so vivid I was immediately immersed in the town of Cascade in the 1930's and swept along in Dez's life as a woman trying to figure out what, exactly, that life was supposed to hold for her.

This is one of those novels that will stay with me long after I finished that final page and I highly recommend this one.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bekah Jane on August 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This novel will stay with me always. I relate to Dez in so many ways .. her desire to have and/or leave a meaning for having "been." She struggled with finding her way, and juggling so many pressures from so many people she loved and/or those who seemingly loved her. To be an artist, to be an woman, to be an independent thinker .. in that time (or this time really, in many ways) was so incredibly challenging. The inward struggle of wrestling with one's own true convictions (when up against almost insurmountable odds) is such a universal siutation. Many people, including me -- especially me -- will find themselves somewhere in Dez, her doomed town of Cascade, or her time. Glory is fleeting, but what lasts -- that is the thing. This exquisite rendition of the artistry of this real imaginary woman will remain with me always. Always.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Martha on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Refreshingly unpredictable story!
A story that captivates and reels you into the small fading town of Cascade , its people and their complexities.
Beautifully and so imaginatively written that you will surely find it difficult to put down , as I did.
It leaves you with the question " what legacy will I leave behind"?
Highly recommend !
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By P. Woodland TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Desdemona Hart is the daughter of the owner of a Shakespearean Playhouse. He is facing bankruptcy so Dez leaves the freedom of the art world she loves to come home and marry staid, solid Asa Spaulding who takes her father in just as he falls ill. Dez is expected to be a model housewife and produce little Asas and Desdemonas as soon as possible but she feels constricted by small town life and by marriage. Her father passes a mere two months after she weds and she finds that he signed the playhouse over to her husband and all he leaves her is a prop from one of the plays - Portia's casket ( a small jewelry box like item) to be opened when the playhouse re - opens. The only light in her life is the time spent with a traveling salesman, Jacob. He is also an artist and he understands her in a way that her husband does not.

The town where she lives is under consideration to be destroyed and flooded to provide a water source for Boston and Asa is fighting hard against it but Dez has mixed feelings - it might free her from Cascade. And possibly from Asa. As the town waits for the news so does Dez wait to decide exactly what to do.

I had a hard time with this book despite the excellent writing because I had a very hard time liking Dez. Nothing made her happy; even when she finally found a touch of success with her art she was still whining. I suppose it was the time; women of that time period were not particularly aggressive or self supporting but Dez sometimes had the hardest time make the simplest decisions and this drove me to distraction. She wanted to be free but she couldn't let go of her father's legacy. She wanted to be free but she still needed a man. I just didn't get her.

The historical aspects of the book and period details were fascinating and were written in seamlessly. The reader gets a true feel for what the times must have been like. The details surrounding the artistic process are well described and were very interesting as well.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Brazier VINE VOICE on October 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dez wants to paint. However, in order to provide for her aging father, she marries Asa, the town pharmacist. Her loveless marriage causes much confusion in her life. Her husband wants babies, as any traditional 1930's marriage would have. However, she does not want to be tied down in this way. Babies would keep her from her work. As Dez deals with this inner turmoil, her town suffers turmoil as well. Cascade is one of the towns that are considered expendable in favor of drinking water for the growing city of Boston. Cascade might be the town that would be flooded in order to create the essential reservoir. But what would happen to her father's beloved Shakespearean playhouse? Just prior to his death, Dez had promised her father that she would reopen the playhouse doors as soon as the Depression-wracked economy improved.

Artistically crafted, this author clearly expresses the indescribable emotions that we have all experienced. The characters are very realistic and experience poignant, accurate emotions. Her words flow like poetry and her novel reads easily and quickly. This book will keep you up nights!

Cascade! What a perfect name for this book! Of course, this book is the name of the town in this novel. However, it also speaks of the progress of our lives, the inevitability of change, the impermanence of things, the constant momentum, the movement. It reminds me of the many paths our lives may take, depending upon which decisions we make. This title is also reminiscent of the waters that slowly filled the town, flooding it and its memories. This is one memorable book that truly speaks to the reader.
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