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Cascade, so named for the town in which the novel takes place, is a book that reveals a story of descent and succession, of selfishness and independence.
Cascade, Massachusetts, 1935. Desdemona Hart Spaulding, a talented young artist who studied in Paris, has sacrificed her dreams of working in New York City to put a roof over her newly bankrupt and ailing father’s head. Two months later he has died and Dez is bound by the promises she has made to her father, her husband, and her town. Stifled by her marriage to kind but conservative Asa, who is impatient to start a family, her ambitions are fading. Dez also stands to lose her father’s legacy, the Cascade Shakespeare Theatre, as Massachusetts decides whether to flood Cascade to create a new reservoir for Boston.
Amid this turmoil arrives Jacob Solomon, a fellow artist and kindred spirit for whom Dez feels an immediate and strong attraction. As their relationship reaches a pivotal moment, a man is found dead and the town points its collective finger at Jacob, a Jewish outsider. When unexpected acclaim and a chance to recapture her lost dreams of life in New York City arise, Dez must make an impossible choice.
This story was such a surprise to me. It wasn’t simply a story of a woman trying to reclaim her independence but how that reclamation affects so many others including the town of Cascade.
Dez makes promises she doesn’t intend to keep. Still in what would be called the honeymoon period of her marriage, she is already feeling stifled and trapped by her husband, by the town.
She’s an aspiring artist and uses her talent to try to help the town but ends up causing more trouble than good. She never fully tries to embrace her life in Cascade and her friendship with Jacob helps to plant seeds of unrest in her mind. One lie leads to a sickening web of lies. But, even with all the lies, part of me respected her and her willingness to forego traditions and expectations to realize her dream.
When you read the book take the time to look up the artwork that the author mentions throughout the book. They are beautiful examples and will help you relate to the characters and town. Also, Google the Works Progress Administration to see all the wonderful murals that came from this project. The author does a wonderful job with imagery that will take you back in time to 1935 and have you pining for a Vanilla Coke served up as you sit on a bar stool at the local pharmacy.
A well written story of a strong woman seeking her independence, a nod to fledging artists of the depression era and the ravaging effects of small town desolation, Cascade is a novel well worth reading.
This book was provided for review by Netgalley.