Cascade: A Novel (Paperback)

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During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

            It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

About the Author

Maryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at the award-winning literary journal Ploughshares. She received her MFA from Emerson College fifteen years ago, and wrote short fiction that was widely published before committing to the long form. She lives on a river near Boston.

Praise For…

Praise for Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

“Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.”—People Magazine

“CASCADE unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy, with an ending you won’t see coming…The novel becomes something that you can’t take your eyes from or stop thinking about in wonder.”—Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe

“Satisfying … a rueful look at the surprising twists and turns life can take. O’Hara deftly combines several different themes into a cohesive novel about love, ambition, loyalty, and betrayal, with an ironic twist at the end.”—Library Journal


“I stayed up very late into the night to finish Cascade, captivated by Dez Hart, a woman torn between competing loyalties:  her marriage and her freedom, her sense of responsibility and her desire to live an artist’s fiercely disciplined and passionate life.  Past and place come alive in this book; these characters are richly drawn and complexly human.  Compelling and fascinating, the story unfolds in such unexpected ways, and with such gathering tension, that I couldn’t stop until I’d read the final, beautifully written, line.”—Kim Edwards, New York Times-bestselling author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Lake of Dreams

“Maryanne O'Hara weaves as intricate, as theatrical, and as tempestuous a plot as deftly as Prospero. Through the eyes of an artist yearning for a larger life-canvas but constrained by a humdrum marriage in a town careening toward destruction, we see the failings of men and women in their tangled relationships, each member of the cast struggling to find a fulfilling life. Save the town! Save the Shakespearean theater! Save our dreams, we cry out with the players.” —Susan Vreeland, New York Times-bestselling author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Clara and Mr. Tiffany

“Yearning—for a choice, for a love, for a different future—suffuses Maryann O'Hara's atmospheric, accomplished, first novel, the sweeping story of a young woman's struggle to define herself in 1930s Massachusetts.” —Janice Y. K. Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Teacher

“In Cascade Maryanne O'Hara has created a splendid heroine, Desdemona, who does not intend to follow her namesake's example, and a wonderfully intricate plot.  Turning these pages, I felt utterly transported to 1930s Massachusetts; at the same time I was struck by how relevant Desdemona's choices still are.  This is a lovely, intelligent and deeply satisfying novel.” —Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and Eva Moves the Furniture

“Maryanne O’Hara’s debut novel of a married woman suffocated by small-town America brings to mind Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. O’Hara’s story is engrossing and her prose luminous as she tells of a talented artist torn between ambition and conformity. Expect to hear more from this remarkable author.”—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale and True Sisters 

“Maryanne O’Hara invites the reader into the life of a young artist, Desdemona Hart, whose sacrifice for love spawns a cascade of secrets that threatens not only to undo her, but also a town, a way of life, and the heritage her beloved father has left them all. Rich with painterly image and flickering with desire, Cascade explores how passion—for life, for love, for art—can determine destiny.” —Robin Oliveira, New York Times-bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter

“This is a magnificent literary achievement. The novel carries us with startling authenticity and emotionality as we follow a young woman trying to unfetter herself from the societal strictures of 1930s Massachusetts and liberate her artistic talents in New York City. Finely and expertly wrought, Cascade is absolutely riveting from start to finish.” —Don Lee, author of Country of Origin

“Set in the Great Depression, and tracing the struggle of one woman to make her own choices, Cascade is a rich and absorbing novel for our time. Maryanne O'Hara tells the rare story of a woman, not a man, fueled by ambition, who is prepared to sacrifice everything, including love, for her passion to create art.” —Lily King, author of Father of the Rain  

Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara is tightly woven story about the choices a young woman makes and the far reaching consequences of those decisions. The story begins in Cascade, MA, a small town located in central Massachusetts.  The town is being considered as the site for a reservoir, necessitated by Boston’s need for water.  The year is 1935 and across America the depression retains a hold on its citizenry. These issues coupled with a young woman coming of age form the plot’s triangle. Desdemona Hart Spaulding is an aspiring artist whose story, like the postcards she paints and the Shakespearean plays her father loved, is complicated. The swirling eddy of human feeling—humor, sadness, betrayal, infidelity, love, ambition, and duplicity—are all well represented and compel the reader to understand and not judge as Dez follows her heart and her art. With an artist’s eye, O’Hara has vividly captured the conflicting emotions that churn behind the human face.” —Kathleen “Totsie” McGonagle, Buttonwood Books & Toys

Product Details
ISBN: 9780143123514
ISBN-10: 0143123513
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2013
Pages: 384
Language: English