The Falls

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The Falls Fiction
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Product Description

Set against the mythic-historic backdrop of Niagara Falls, Joyce Carol Oates explores the American family in crisis, but also America itself in the mid-twentieth century. As in 'We Were the Mulvaneys,' she examines what happens when the richly interwoven relationships of parents and their children are challenged by circumstances outside the family. 481p.

Editorial Reviews

Oates (I Am No One You Know, 2003, etc.) painstakingly examines the impulse toward self-destruction-and the ways we find to heal ourselves.The story spans nearly 30 years, beginning in 1950 when newlywed Gilbert Erskine leaps into Niagara Falls to his death, forever traumatizing his bride Ariah, a "spinster" music teacher who had awkwardly stumbled into a marriage neither spouse wanted. The hallucinatory opening section traces Ariah's growing embitterment while introducing young attorney Dirk Burnaby, who impulsively comforts "the Widow-Bride of The Falls," just as impulsively proposes a year after Gilbert's demise-and is accepted. The Burnabys settle in Niagara Falls, produce three children, and keep their often volatile marriage together (despite Ariah's emotional instability and paranoia) until Dirk, moved by the passionate activism of a woman whose family is victimized by environmental poisoning, undertakes the first (1962) lawsuit against the chemical company that had dumped pollutants into Love Canal. The suit is dismissed, Dirk's high standing in the community is destroyed, and his suspicious death pushes Ariah deeper into withdrawal and resentment. The narrative then focuses in turns on her children. Scholarly, introverted Chandler, who has long known he is his mother's firstborn but not her favorite, becomes a science teacher, and eventually the dogged pursuer of the buried facts about his father's obsession and fate. "Golden Boy" Royall struggles to escape the burdens of being loved too easily and achieving too little. And their sister Juliet, who inherits Ariah's musical gifts, must resist a deathward momentum given stunning metaphoric form in the Burnaby family story of a daredevil tightrope walker, and the beckoning "voices" that seem to speak from within the roaring waters of the Falls.This big, enthralling novel recaptures the gift for Dreiserian realism that distinguishes such Oates triumphs as them, What I Lived For, and We Were the Mulvaneys. It's her best ever-and a masterpiece.Author tour Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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