Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: The Falls

This is the first Joyce Carol Oates novel I've read and I enjoyed it. The Falls is a sweeping multi-generational, family saga that starts in the fifties and ends in the late seventies. Narrated in third person, it is told in alternating perspective. There are really two main characters: first, Ariah who is tragically widowed on her honeymoon at Niagara Falls and then, much later, her son Royall who finds himself sifting through the secretive past on wich his mother built their life.

At heart, the dysfunctional family story is very relatable, but the plot is refreshingly original as are the flawed, eccentric characters. An interesting part of the story is that the reader feels complicit in the keeping of Ariah's secrets. We know the truth before the other characters do. In fact, some of them never know the full story, as they wouldn't in real life. Only the reader, able to see from each character's perspective, sees the complete picture.

There is an improbable scene at the midpoint of the book (between Royall and the "woman in black") which is jarring because of the previous believability of the story. But if you can get past this, the resolution is satisfying.

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