Fic­tion

Cas­cade

Maryanne OHara

  • Review
By – September 11, 2013

Des­de­mona Hart has returned home after study­ing art in Paris to post-Depres­sion Cas­cade, Mass­a­chu­setts. She dreams of liv­ing in New York City’s artist scene, but cir­cum­stances dic­tate oth­er­wise. Dez’s father and sup­port­er, William Hart, is the own­er and actor in the town’s beau­ti­ful the­ater, where Shakespeare’s plays are per­formed each sum­mer, bring­ing sea­son­al vis­i­tors to Cas­cade. William Hart is in poor health and the town’s future is in flux. Dez soon finds her­self in a mar­riage of con­ve­nience to her long­time friend, phar­ma­cist Asa Spauld­ing, in order to have a home for her­self and her bank­rupt father. Asa owns the town phar­ma­cy and a bit of land.

Cas­cade is one of two towns being seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered by the Water Board to be razed and flood­ed to become a reser­voir for the city of Boston’s increas­ing water needs. Cascade’s respect­ed trav­el­ing sales­man of dry goods has died and his artist son, Jacob, takes his place. Dez and Jacob estab­lish a friend­ship which threat­ens the uneasy bal­ance in her mar­ried life, while the town’s cit­i­zens mis­trust this Jew­ish man. Jacob tells Dez about the bad news he gleans from let­ters from his fam­i­ly in Europe. Dez thinks up a cre­ative way to help Cas­cade get nation­al atten­tion about its plight, while Asa cre­ates a ruse to divert the Water Board’s deci­sion. Both actions pro­pel Dez to the next step in her artis­tic and per­son­al life, as she con­sid­ers whether she should do the right thing” for oth­ers or for her­self. The con­se­quences of Dez’s deci­sions affect her artis­tic future and free­dom but also the life of her hus­band and of Jacob, a promise made to her father about his beloved the­ater, and oth­ers’ lives as well.

This book is a page turn­er, filled with the details of dai­ly life in the 1930s both in New York City and the small towns with­in a few hours’ train ride upstate. The sto­ry delves deeply into the expe­ri­ences and cre­ative process of a work­ing woman painter in Man­hat­tan at that time and beyond. Shake­speare­an the­ater and the dai­ly oper­a­tion of an icon­ic small town phar­ma­cy with a busy soda foun­tain counter are also vivid­ly por­trayed. I devoured this intel­li­gent his­tor­i­cal nov­el, loose­ly based on the real life cre­ation of Massachusetts’s Quab­bin Reser­voir, and look for­ward to author O’Hara’s next book.

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Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nassau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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