Book Review: The Day The Falls Stood Still

The Day The Falls Stood Still
Published By: Voice
Release Date: August 2009
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Library
**Note on Format: Audiobook**
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction

I struggled with how to write this review because there are so many things I want to discuss, but they would ruin the book for others. I chose to just give a brief overview and discuss some of the main themes as a result of this thinking. I also want to mention that I have never been to Niagara Falls, but after reading this book I want to go!

The Day The Falls Stood Still is the story of Bess Heath who at the age of seventeen realizes that her life is changing in ways she never imagined. The first change comes when her father is let go from his job with the Niagara Power Company after some bad business investments. Her once wealthy family is now struggling to make ends meet as her father drinks away his woe day after day while her mother works as a dress maker to keep the family afloat. To make matters worse, Isabel, Bess' older sister is melancholy after a recent failed engagement. How is Bess supposed to keep things together when everything is falling apart?

Bess meets Tom Cole, a fisher and trapper, who in her previous life would have hardly been worth the notice. Wealthy girls were not meant to notice the working class. But there is something about Tom that keeps Bess looking for him every day on River Road. The two begin a love affair that has become one of my favorites in historical fiction. Their love transcends the printed pages and takes control of your heart. You feel about Tom as deeply as Bess does as you see their relationship evolve through her eyes.

I also enjoyed the issue of socioeconomic status driving so much in society. Many would argue that we have come far beyond that in modern times. While I agree that we don't plan our marriages around the issue of family wealth anymore, I would argue that discrimination based on class is still alive and well in our country today. I see it every day in my classroom. There is a constant battle between the haves and the have nots. I also would wager that many of these kids refuse to be friends with kids who don't fit their same socioeconomic mold. 

The Day The Falls Stood still is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction. The research is flawless and I often had to remind myself that I was not reading nonfiction. I loved how Buchanan poses the progress vs. nature fight that waged throughout the Niagara region during this time period. This speaks to many of the arguments between businesses and environmentalists today as well. I wonder if this issue will ever be resolved. Can we ever truly progress forward as society without hurting nature in some way?

Buchanan also uses this novel as a venue to consider the possibility of a higher power. I enjoyed the various viewpoints presented throughout the text. Tom strongly believes that their is something out there watching over all of us; something that allows the loved ones who have passed on to stay behind and help in our times of need. He feels his grandfather, Fergus, guided his decisions every time he is near the river. Bess, on the other hand, doesn't believe in anything. 

Finally, I truly enjoyed the section of the book revolving around World War I. I know the basics of the war, but mainly only from a U.S. perspective. I found it fascinating to view the war from a Canadian perspective. I also enjoyed the letters and stories Tom told about his experiences. My heart ached for Bess as she tried to keep things running smoothly at home while Tom was away fighting. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been. I have so much respect for women who have lived through something like that. I honestly don't know how they do it.

Since I listened to this book on CD I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss that aspect as well. I am an avid audio-book listener due to my lengthy work commute. I enjoyed this book on audio and think the narrator did a nice job of conveying emotion. I also liked how she did the voices of the other characters in a different cadence so it was easy to follow the story. However, the actual tone of her voice annoyed me at first. She sounded much too mature to be the voice of a seventeen year old. Yes, Bess ages as the plot unfolds and it was a different time period, but I don't imagine that most teenagers in that time period speak like middle aged women. I had to keep reminding myself of Bess' age as I listened to keep things in perspective.

One Last Gripe: I HATED the ending - LOATHED IT. I can't say anything more than that. Just read it and let me know if you agree. I can see why Buchanan chose to go that direction, but I don't have to be happy about it.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The history - Cathy Marie Buchanan provides sound research and weaves her story in such a way that makes it plausible - I love books that are so real it could happen

First Sentence: The stone walls of Loretto Academy are so thick I can sit curled up on a windowsill, arms around the knees tucked beneath my chin.

Favorite Characters: Bess, Tom

Least Favorite Character: Bess' Father

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.Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.


  1. I love Historical Fiction, this sounds good to me.

  2. @Tribute Books Mama - I highly recommend it and hope you enjoy the read as much as I did. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you choose to give it a try.


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