Cover Image: Waterfall

Waterfall

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Member Reviews

This book was set in 1922 where women had just begun to vote.  The story follows Trinity who was recently released from an asylum after being treated for hysteria and then makes her way back to her families cabin.  I did not get lost in the story, though I did enjoy it, there were a lot of characters and at times it was very difficult to follow everyone.
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Waterfall has the potential to be a great book.  It has an intriguing premise about a young woman’s isolation in an asylum, and what happens when her parents agree to her release during a summer pilgrimage to their Minnesota lake home.  It is set in a lovely and richly described lake area.  It has more than a few dramatic interludes that prompt an accelerated reading pace.  It is nicely written.  Waterfall is also populated with interesting characters, but populated is the right word.  Waterfall feels crowded.  Too many characters pass through the book without much connectedness to one another.  Even the playful puppy in the book wanders around without much interaction between the residents and visitors to the islands.  This lack of cohesion makes Waterfall read more like a collection of short stories than a complete novel.  While it is never boring or tedious, it also never grabbed me or pulled me in.  Like a waterfall, it sparkles and shines in places as it moves to the end, but it doesn’t leave anything behind.  

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for this honest review.
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A small disclaimer: I haven't read this author's other books and full disclosure, I didn't realize this was part of a series when I picked it up - but after doing more research I discovered I didn't really need to read the previous ones.

I did have a hard time getting into this book, however. I liked the main character, the story...basically all of the over-arching "important" things about the book. But it just sort of fell flat for me - I think maybe the writing style didn't work for me. It's hard to put my finger on for this one, unfortunately, so I think it just falls into the category of "not for me."
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I really enjoyed Trinity and her outlook on life given her family’s controlling ways.  Guess I never thought about how repressive it would be for the young adults of the very rich in the 1920’s.  The fact that a woman could be institutionalized for life for supposed hysteria or even melancholy shocked me.  Her mother’s addiction to an opium product also surprised me.  Agatha and George were my favorite characters, and I found myself wondering how much they resented Mr. and Mrs. Baird.  The fact that they chose such an outlying island without comforts of their normal house really surprised me although given their neighbors on other islands perhaps it was the latest way to show their wealth.  Many thanks to Mary Casanova, University of Minnesota Press, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an arc of this interesting read.
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Waterfall is the third book in a loosely connected series which began with Frozen, followed by Ice Out.  Each book follows a different character, all set in the 1920s northern Minnesota communities of Ranier and International Falls.  The book reads as a young adult title in pacing and action, but has been published as an adult title due to content. It was hard to read and imagine myself as either the person being committed to an asylum involuntarily or the person feeling that someone needed to be committed. Both situations gave me pause. While the behavior of the staff at the asylum was horrendous, it was accepted. Definitely made me think and consider both the ways we have improved and the ways we still need to improve. I love local history stories and this was a wonderful addition, that while fictional was based on local characters and events.
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Whenever I find myself being the first to rate and review a book on GR, there is a certain responsibility or at least a desire to be kind. And so I’ll try, but don’t hold me to it…
   The area where Minnesota and Canada meet doesn’t initially sound like an ideal vacation land. But then again where there is a will// water, there is a way and so, apparently, the tiny islands around the lake there provide a lovely place to visit during the inevitably brief summers. 
    This book takes place in 1922 on one such island owned by the esteemed Baird family. Their youngest daughter, Trinity, a spirited young woman with artistic ambitions returns to their yearly vacation abode following an 18 months involuntary confinement in a loony bin for…well, being spirited. An absolutely intolerable thing for a well to do conservative family like Bairds. But now she’s back, as spirited as ever, possibly more so, but also more in control of it, minding the fact that she depends completely on the financial support of her family if she is to pursue her studies and dreams. And so she’ll patiently contend with her witch of a mother and her racist miser of a dad, who is actually the nice one in the family, and her recently (gasp) divorced alcoholic sister for a summer of fun and soul searching. There might even be an opportunity for romance with the young man employed by her father’s company. But most importantly, it’ll be the summer Trinity figures out her family and her future. 
     So in a way it’s a coming of age story. Young woman follows her rebellious spirit, overcomes the constrictive binds of her family and finds the courage/finances to follow her dreams. Obstacles are overcome and triumph is arrived at, but…but…the execution of it all does leave a lot to be desired.
     I’ve never read or even heard of the author, it appears she has made a career of writing for children (with some exceptions, featuring this book and its two predecessors all set in the same area) and it really shows in the maturity of the writing. Which is to say that while there is nothing child oriented per se about the book, the plainness of its plotting, the quaint sentimentality and the easy morality of it all reads very much like a sort of instructive tale for young readers. And in the end it’s all wrapped up with a pretty bow and delivered on a sort of easy resolution platter you’d expect from a prime time non premium tv network show or maybe a Lifetime movie production. It’s all very…nice. So if you’re willing to trade in moral complexity and narrative excellence for nice, this is your book. Otherwise, it’s kind of frustrating. It tries to go to dark places, but Polyannas right out of them each and every time. It isn’t Trinity herself (who is meant to be brave and ambitious and intelligent), she’s just written that way. She wants to be relevant and courageous and shine the light on the appalling social injustices of her time, but the writer is determined to make her into a neat after school special. 
    It’s all terribly well meant and sincere, but too tonally quaint for its themes, basically a heavy metal key lime pie of a book. Seemingly targeted to the ladies of a certain age who watch daytime television and occasionally swoon at Outlander. The lovers of historical fiction delivered softly, in an easily digestible and morally unambiguous manner.
      Turns out (from the afterword) that the author is from the area and is quite take with it, having done a bunch of research that leads her to put out these books inspired by real people. In fact, the book features some real life characters and some thinly disguised ones. The main protagonist is inspired by a real person, it is her photo on the cover, fiction (such as it is) imitating life. Not sure what they’d think about being  fictionalized thusly, but then again, it is a form of immortality after all.
    But in the end, in the adorably nifty, unrealistically perfectly resolved end, there isn’t much here to recommend. It’s a decent book, it’s a nice book in so many ways, but it isn’t wildly original or exciting and it kind of seems the plot was consistently at odds with the execution and, lamentably, the latter won out. It did read quickly and had some  decent dramatic family moments, so there’s that. Thanks Netgalley.
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