Review: The Day the Falls Stood Still

February Omaha Bookworm’s selection

I look forward to discussing The Day the Falls Stood Still with Cathy Buchanan in February and will post a recap of our discussion late February.

From the authors website: Born and bred in Niagara Falls, Ontario, I grew up awash in the lore of William “Red” Hill, Niagara’s most famous riverman.  I’d see the rusted-out hull of the old scow still lodged in the upper rapids of the river and be reminded of him rescuing the men marooned there in 1918.  I’d see the plaque commemorating the ice bridge tragedy of 1912 and know he’d risked his life to save a teenage boy named Ignatius Roth.  I’d open the newspaper and read a story about his son Wes carrying on the Hill tradition and rescuing a stranded stunter.

Synopsis: Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating-and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him-against her family's strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Type: Historical fiction, 320 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: I had not heard of this book until a member of the Omaha Bookworm’s selected it for us to read.  I enjoy historical fiction so I was excited to reach out to Cathy, asking her if she would be interested in discussing the book with us.  I did listen to a few interviews with the author that I believe enhanced my reading experience (I had no idea there was so much controversy over the falls in the early 1900’s, although this makes so much sense). 

Buchanan paints a vibrant picture of the Falls - it's grandeur, beauty, and danger. There are photos throughout the book which are helpful and I have to say they help the reader become emotionally attached to the story.  The story surrounding the falls is a love story, yet filled with politics and historical events.  You get a sense of how difficult it was to live just one day at the turn of the century. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love this one.

You can spend hours learning on Cathy's website!  It's filled with author Q&A's, maps and so much history to explore.  Be sure to check out the site before and after reading this book.