15 October 2009

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker

Flap Copy from ARC: "On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother, Billy, points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window across from an elementary school, closing down a city block. "Suicide by police" was obviously Billy's intended result, but the aftermath of his death brings shock after shock for Lila when she discovers that her twin - the person she thought she was closer to than anyone in the world - was not only estranged from his wife, but also charged with endangering the life of his middle child and namesake, eight-year-old William."

This engrossing tale delves deep into the power of memory and the often blurry lines between actual events and the stories we're told about those events. The focus of the book are Lila and Billy, a set of unusually close fraternal twins whose lives and stories are enwtined more than anyone can imagine. After Billy's death Lila completely breaks down, leaving her husband Patrick - a man who has always valued reason and logic over emotion - to sift through what he knows and what he is told to piece together the truth about Lila and Billy's childhood.

Often poignant and incredibly readable, this novel was very well-written and I highly recommend it with 5 stars. Every family has its secrets, some more so than others - I think Tucker truly captured the quiet darkness that exists deep in the recesses of the human mind. She also tackled the very interesting topic of twins and the unique bonds they share, sometimes to the detriment of their other relationships. This book will make you think; it'll make you call your sibling or your mom; it will certainly make you want to read more from Lisa Tucker.

14 October 2009

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Flap Copy from ARC: "The year is 1915, the dawn of the hydroelectric era in Niagra Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a life of comfort and ease as the younger daughter of the director of the Niagra Power Company. But when a tragedy leaves her beautiful sister dead and her family disgraced, Bess's life is transformed beyond imagination.

At a time when the stunts of daredevils are as much fodder for town gossip as her own family's plight, when fortunes are made and lost as quickly as lives disappear, Bess must navigate suddenly unfamiliar territory. There to help her is Tom Cole, a handsome, rough-hewn riverman with a mystical ability to predict the whims of the river and the falls. His daring rescues render him a local hero - while launching a string of events that casts him as a threat to the power companies and puts Bess and Tom's future together to risk."

Set in Canadian Niagra between 1915 and 1923, Buchanan's debut novel is a historical, naturalist love story. With some characters and events loosely based on true historic figures and a looming and powerful Falls dominating nearly every page, this novel was certainly interesting but fell a little short on plot strength towards the end. I liked Bess and Tom, and was certainly rooting for them to succeed in life and love. I thought Tom especially was very well drawn - I found his deep and abiding relationship with the river and the falls to be both fascinating and a little chilling - that he was based on a real riverman of the era made him even more appealing. Their lives were perhaps overfull of tragic events, but I think that the realities of the era lend themselves well to such drama.

I think Buchanan's writing is clear and strong, and her characters are well-voiced. She captured the life of the times as well as the history and power of the Falls; she also incorporated a strong environmental message that would have been important then and still resonates now. I enjoyed the book, and would definitely recommend it with 3.5 stars - be prepared however, for a rushed and perhaps overly simple ending which in my opinion greatly reduced the impact of the novel as a whole.