Author: Maryanne O'Hara
Publication Year: 2012
Setting: MA and NYC
Date Completed: December/2012
Rating: 4.5/5Recommend: yes
Desdemona (Dez) Hart Spaulding, is an independent woman, a gifted young artist who has studied in Boston and even Paris. Her dreams of living in the big city and making it big in the art world are set aside because of a promise she made to father, John Hart, a former actor, who lost his fortune and was even forced to close his Cascade Shakespearean Theater when the Depression hit.
Following her father's advice Dez marries the older, but sensible Asa Spaulding, a pharmacist who is anxious to start of family, something Dez is not ready for. When her father dies just two months after their marriage, she learns that he has left his theater to her husband, but wants Dez to see that it opens once again.
At the same time, something else is going on that has the potential of affecting the town of Cascade. Her father's dream of his theater reopen in Cascade, MA may not happen if plans by the state to build a new reservoir by flooding several small towns goes through. Dez begins throwing her energy into her painting and art by capturing Cascade as it is (pre-flood) in the form of postcards. When a Jewish artist from New York, now traveling salesman, breezes into town, he and Dez feel a bond because of their love of art, but townspeople with anti-Semitic views see him as a suspicious outsider. For Dez, when a New York magazine seems interested in her art, she must decide what to do. Stay with Asa or pursue her dreams.
This was an wonderful debut novel which appealed to me for several reasons. The author beautifully detailed life in New England in the 1930s as well as what Greenwich Village in New York must have been like at that time as well. The author really creates a realistic dilemma -- doing what's right or following one's heart. The characters as well as the impending doom surrounding the flooding of the towns seemed believable as well. Oh, and I almost forgot, a surprise ending as well.
Another reason I found the story so interesting was that, although this was a work of fiction, the story, at least in part, was based on a similar event that occurred about 20 miles from where I grew up in Western Massachusetts around the same time (1936). The Quabbin Reservoir resulted when larger cities like Boston were in need of a larger drinking water supply. The Quabbin is one of the largest suppliers of drinking water in the United States. It's a beautiful place to visit and spend time with nature and family.