It is 1950 and, after a disastrous honeymoon night, Ariah Erskine's young husband throws himself into the roaring waters of Niagara Falls. Ariah, the Widow Bride of the Falls, begins a relentless seven-day vigil in the mist, waiting for his body to be found. At her side is confirmed bachelor and pillar of the community Dirk Burnaby, who is unexpectedly drawn to her. What follows is a passionate love affair, marriage, and family -- a seemingly perfect existence. But tragedy soon takes over their lives, poisoning their halcyon years with distrust, greed, and murder. Set against the mythic-historic backdrop of Niagara Falls in the mid-twentieth century, this haunting exploration of the American family in crisis is a stunning achievement from one of the great artistic forces of our time (The Nation). This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
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1 . Amazingly readable, classic Oates
Posted February 07, 2011 by Sihaya , Granbury TexasAfter reading, and re-reading, most of Joyce Carol Oates' novels, I wasn't an unsuspecting novice bringing up the first page. I've never declared her a favorite writer, but her books do not find their way out of my shelves--they are a portion of "my favorite books" nonetheless. Like many places in the world, Niagra Falls has fascinated me and my imagination for years. My best friend went to tour them with his parents a couple of years ago, so vicariously, I feel like I was there too--they even went on the Maid of the Mist tour mentioned in the book. This, to say, that it's not all fiction, but like the best, is based in a reality--our reality.
The main character, Ariah, is not likeable. I didn't like her at first, nor did I grow to like her. Burnaby, however, both the man and their children, are infinitely intriguing, and, along with the setting, the reason I will likely read this book several more times before "the light goes out." I read some of the reviews here prior to buying the ebook, the only kind I buy now, since I love my Sony reader so much, and was disturbed by the range found within. Some reviewers loved the book, others absolutely did not. However, after getting to "know" Ariah, I can see why some did not enjoy it much.
In any case, if you like Oates' vivid characters and enjoy her love of words and music, then please ignore the unfavorable reviews and take a chance. I think you'll put down the book thoughtfully satisfied. I finished it about ten minutes ago, and couldn't wait to give it a positive word for avid readers with similar tastes to mine.
August 01, 2005
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Excerpt from The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
"No. Please, God. Not this."
The hurt. The humiliation. The unspeakable shame. Not grief, not yet. The shock was too immediate for grief. When she discovered the enigmatic note her husband had left for her propped against a mirror in the bedroom of their honeymoon suite at the Rainbow Grand Hotel, Niagara Falls, New York, Ariah had been married twenty-one hours. When, in the early afternoon of that day, she learned from Niagara Falls police that a man resembling her husband, Gilbert Erskine, had thrown himself into the Horseshoe Falls early that morning and had been swept away -- "vanished, so far without a trace" -- beyond the Devil's Hole Rapids, as the scenic attraction downriver from The Falls was named, she'd been married not quite twenty-eight hours.
These were the stark, cruel facts.
"I'm a bride who has become a widow in less than a day."
Ariah spoke aloud, in a voice of wonder. She was the daughter of a much-revered Presbyterian minister, surely that should have counted for something with God, as it did with secular authorities?
Ariah struck suddenly at her face with both fists. She wanted to pummel, blacken her eyes that had seen too much.
"God, help me! You wouldn't be so cruel -- would you?"
Yes. I would. Foolish woman of course I would. Who are you, to be spared My justice?
How swift the reply came! A taunt that echoed so distinctly in Ariah's skull, she halfway believed these pitying strangers could hear it.
But here was solace: until Gilbert Erskine's body was found in the river and identified, his death was theoretical and not official. Ariah wasn't yet a widow, but still a bride.