Day The Falls Stood Still, by Cathy Marie Buchanan – Book Review

Bess Heath is just seventeen years old at the time her world irrevocably changes.  She leaves the prestigious Loretto AcademyThe Day The Falls Stood Still, by Cathy Marie Buchanan at the end of her junior year knowing that she will never return, and in a manner in which she has not been accustomed in her short life.  Gone is the fancy car with her proud father leaning against it in greeting, waiting to whisk her away for summer holidays.  Instead there is only her mother to sit in on her last school concert, and to help her lug her heavy trunk to the trolley which they will now have to take home.

Bess is ill prepared to face the reduced circumstances and changed personalities of her family.  Though she has been warned by a friend that her father has lost his job at the Niagara Power Company, she doesn’t know that her mother has taken in sewing of the rich friends who were once their social equals, that her once elegant father now dons a rough worker’s coat  and then spends the day and most of the night drinking, shunned by his former colleagues.  Her once vivavacious sister, Isabel, has become a shell of her former self, haunted by secrets that Bess can’t imagine.  As Bess begins the process of adjusting to her new circumstances, the one bright spot in her life is Tom Cole, a working class man whom she meets by chance on the trolley home from Loretto.  Tom and Bess carefully work out a way to start seeing each other, though her family does not approve.  Will she do what is right for them or what is best for her?

If I had to chose one word to describe this book it would be intricatelywovenandmultifaceted. (What do you mean that’s not a word?  It’s in my dictionary just like that!) There was so much going on and so many layers.  The Day The Falls Stood Still is historical fiction at it’s best- when you are just so encased within the fabric of the story, the characters and the history that you are getting an education, entertainment and a little therapy all at once.  Bess, Tom, Isabel and the rest of the characters in this novel face drastic changes in their society due to their own choices, but also external forces like the ongoing war and the resulting privations which all but the wealthy must endure. Every decision that they make is also heightened by the immediacy of death,easily accessible in the raging waters of Niagara Falls, whether or not death is being actively sought.  People are found floating in the river having given themselves over to the Falls, mothers accidentally drop their babies into the water, ice bridges break up and float off with people trapped on them, there are avalanches and rock slides, and adventurers trying to shoot the rapids in barrels. Tom is deeply concerned with the fact that Niagara herself is facing death at the hands of corporations bent on siphoning off  the water to create electricity.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the decisions that I made when I was Bess’s age, and I have to say that while I might have had the basic framework for who I would become, a lot was missing.  I guess the way that we fill in that framework is to have life experiences, make mistakes, change or become more of and reinforce who we are, but it was just fascinating to look at the choices from the remove of a century, and against the back drop of a different society in a place as dramatic as Niagara Falls.  I worried for Bess, and I wasn’t sure that she was making the right decisions, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted the right things for her, but  loved thinking about it all while reading.  The characters and their situations, and not just Bess, were so balanced and well thought out that it was a joy to read and the writing is just beautiful. Cathy Marie Buchanan seems to effortlessly render a society that is changing faster than people can keep up.

Another element that I enjoyed here were the quiet explorations of faith and nature.  As the novel stats out Bess is someone who has always felt the presences of something bigger than herself, and has always been on the verge of confirming that belief when circumstances halt her burgeoning faith and cause her to question its existence and her tendency to believe.  Tom has deep faith in Niagara and the gifts of the river, but also in the spirit of the grandfather that taught him all that he knows.  Faith and beliefs can change over the course of a lifetime and that portrayal here is beautifully related as were the relationships between mother and daughter, husband and wife, and the bonds between friends.  This was a rich and rewarding reading experience and I savored every word.

Read More Reviews At:

In this book, Bess has to make a lot of tough decisions at a young age and under circumstances that are drastically different those which she had been raised to expect.  Under even the best of circumstances I look back at where my head was at seventeen and am seriously mystified by what I was thinking and my very thought processes.

That being said, I have a copy of The Day The Falls Stood Still to giveaway to a lucky reader.  To enter just tell me how you were ruining your life at seventeen what you think about the quality of the choices you were making at seventeen. I’m pretty sure this is probably U.S./Canada only, but my international readers can enter for a shot at winning my so gently used it’s new copy. If you were reading yesterday, you’ll know that I don’t write in books, dog-ear, use bookmarks, eat or any other shady things when I’m reading a book.  In fact I read by osmosis!

Enter by Sunday, September 20th, anytime, your time and I will wait a few days to make sure it’s not Sunday anywhere and then e-mail a few winners.  Good Luck!

You may also like


  1. You made me laugh this morning! Wouldn’t it be great to read by osmosis? Put a book under your pillow at night and wake up and remember the whole thing! Awesome!

    I would love to enter to win a copy of this book. I was starting my first year of college when I was 17 and living across the country from my family. Most of my decisions were good: going to classes, studying hard, making friends.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Today’s Listen: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See =-.

  2. At seventeen, I was focused on…actually I don’t really want to tell you. But then when I was also still seventeen, I got back together with my ex-boyfriend and stopped doing most of that stuff, and that was all for the good because after college I married him. F’real.

  3. Oh my, the decisions I made at 17 were REALLY stupid, I thought I knew everything, but I knew in my heart I was doing everything wrong. I just wanted anything that was different from what my life really was. That’s why I made sure my son’s life was great when he was 17 and there was nothing for him to run away from.

  4. Actually, shortly after my 17th birthday, I became pregnant with my now almost 16 year old daughter. One of many bad choices I was making at the time. Though with a lot of help with my mom and a few close friends things have worked out well.

    Now, could you teach me that reading my osmosis trick of yours? =)
    .-= KyleeJ´s last blog ..Review of: The Greatest Knight =-.

  5. I entered college when I was 17. I was so focused on getting straight A’s that I missed out on a lot my freshman year of college. I eventually learned how to balance life better, but it definitely took some time.

    This book looks really interesting and I would love to win a copy!

  6. Ooooh–I’ve had my eye on this book! As for the quality of choices I made at seventeen . . . they were awful. All I cared about was hanging out with my friends and my boyfriend who was, of course, the love of my life. But you live and you learn!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..BTT: Recent Good =-.

  7. Oh! I want this book, but I can’t tell you what I did at seventeen! (I’m not there yet!) Lol! That’s predicament you probably didn’t see coming! Aw, well. I’ll buy it! Thanks for the thoughtful, intense review. I’ll be looking forward to reading this!

    Before I go, I can tell you what I hope to be doing at seventeen: Writing a book, developing my individual worth. I hope to have my mind set on the future, and enjoying the present–enjoying the last few moments I have to spend with my family. Let us hope I meet my goal! Everything good in life comes from hard-core determination and faith in ourselves.
    .-= Madeleine´s last blog ..Reading Meme =-.

    1. Hi Madeleine!

      It’s very true that I din’t think about, I just based it on the character’s age, but great save on the question.

      Send me your address because you have won a copy of the day The day The Falls Stood Still! Congrats.

  8. At 17, I thought all my decisions were well-thought out, good quality, smart decisions. Looking back, I can promise that they weren’t always as clever as I thought. I never made any truly stupid decisions and graduated high school with honours and without a criminal record, an addiction, a baby or anything else rather negative. I know now, however, that I would have done much better in school had I studied more and spent less time going out with friends. Had I learned to save the money I’d made then in my job, I’d probably be better off financially now, with a lower student loan, etc.

  9. Your reviews are so good I always sigh after I read one. You’ve made this book sound marvelous. I want to start the book right now, but a friend of mine has it. She better bring it back soon or I’ll call her a former friend. I’m glad I have the book because I do not want to tell you what I was doing at 17!
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..BBAW: Under the influence of blogs =-.

  10. It’s great to have a chance to win this book after talking with you on Twitter about it today! Do you really want to know about the quality of choices I was making at seventeen? Let’s just say for such a smart girl, I had far too little self-confidence when it came to relationships, and the end result was a relationship that shouldn’t have lasted for as long as it did. On the other hand, I have two beautiful children as a result of it, so who knows what’s good or bad! 🙂
    .-= Belle´s last blog ..BBAW: Because She Introduced Me To Ceepak =-.

  11. When I was seventeen we used to drive down the street throwing Long John Silver’s hushpuppies into other people’s cars. And we thought we were very mature!

  12. I was a senior in high school when I was 17. I had already decided to go to college at the university in the city where I had lived my whole life. I would continue living at home and working part time. I didn’t have many decisions to make.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  13. This is one book that intrigues me. I would love to read it.
    At 17 I was in college and make the mistake that I could get by without studying. The first and second quarters didn’t go very well until I woke up and changed by habits. I almost lost out on an education because of my ignorance.

    Thanks for this opportunity.

  14. At seventeen I was only interested in being with my friends and tended to put school on the backburner. If I could go back and change that I definately would.

  15. Oh I would love to read this book.
    At seventeen I pretty well did what was expected of me and a lot of my decisions were based on what my parents would have wanted me to do. Looking back I wish I had spread my wings a little and forced myself to look beyond the neat and tidy world I lived in.

  16. when i was 17 i was hanging with friends and having fun!! but being good of course

    wadesherry@hotmail dot com

  17. Don’t enter me in your giveaway, please! I just wanted to say that I’m reading this book now and I’m happy to see you read it. I love the one word you used to describe the story, the word is quite perfect. Where can a purchase a copy of your dictionary?! I’m going to return when I’m finished and tread your review as well as many of the others you listed!
    ~ Amy
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Happy Saturday! =-.

  18. At 17, my focus was on a girl named Valerie :-). I was also thinking about being an accountant but now I work for a software company so that shows you 🙂

  19. At 17…I left home…met and then married my husband (it’s been 31 years!)
    So I may have been naive…and young…but my instincts were spot on!!
    Thanks for entering me in your contest.
    piroska at tbaytel dot net

  20. Wow, I definitely want to read this book. Thanks so much for the review and giveaway!

    I don’t think I made the best choices at 17, to be honest. While I don’t really have regrets because I love my life now and adore the way it turned out, I think I would make different choices if I had the maturity I have now.
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..CHALLENGE: Clear Off Your Shelves 2009 =-.

  21. This book went on my wish list the first I heard about it. It really does sound good. And, for the record, intricatelywovenandmultifaceted is a word. I looked it up in my dictionary. I know it’s too late to enter the giveaway, but I’ve been thinking of how I might answer your question. I really was a pretty good kid back then, focused on my education and doing what I could to get out of my parents’ house, which wasn’t the best place to be. I wish I had been more confident back then, but I have no regrets about the choices I made.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..TGIF: Music, Wish Lists & Tears =-.

  22. I’m not joining in for the giveaway because I recently finished the book and am writing my review. I just wanted to say that your review is great! In addition, this is a wonderful book so well written and so enjoyable, it’s a story to read slowly, savor and get to know and understand the characters!

    Good luck to all the contestants!
    Thank you for a wonderful review!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Thoughts and an Award! =-.

  23. Thanks again, Nicole, for your wonderful review of my book. I loved reading all these comments.

    At 17 I had my first real boyfriend. He was a good guy so I suppose I made a good decision on that front. At 18, though, I had a bad boy boyfriend so it seems my 17-year-old wisdom was shortlived.

  24. Pingback: Book Blog Tour | Cathy Marie Buchanan