Cascade: A Novel by Maryanne O’Hara was a pleasure to read. It begins in late 1934 when Desdemona Hart, a trained artist, has married Asa Spaulding, the pharmacist for the town of Cascade, in order to provide a home for her dying father’s last days. But after her father’s death, it becomes clear to her that she can’t remain trapped in the small town or in her marriage.
At the same time, Cascade is threatened with inundation by a project to build a reservoir for Boston. Asa is at the forefront of the fight against the reservoir and Dez, as she’s known, finds a way to use her art to help, although she is conflicted because her work is more highly valued by her magazine employer if Cascade is actually going to drown. Ironically, Cascade’s death is what she needs to save herself.
There’s also forbidden love, artistic rivalry, some intrigue. And there’s also a good bit of Shakespeare, as Dez’s father had built a theater in the town of Cascade that Dez would like to save.
Although the ending feels a bit rushed to me, it’s a very engaging story. When Dez begins to submit her work to magazines, I was cheering for her, admiring her courage.
I’m looking forward to discussing this book tomorrow on a panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book called Forbidden Attraction, also featuring novels by Bill Roorbach, Erika Robuck, and Margaret Wrinkle.