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The Falls

Posted - Nov. 8, 2004 at 7:18 a.m.



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The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

Imagine it is the morning after your wedding night. You sense your new husband is not in bed, maybe not in the honeymoon suite at all, and your heart begins to pound. You do not know yet that while you still slept, before dawn, he climbed over the railing and threw himself into Niagara Falls.

This it the catapulting open of Joyce Carol Oates' latest bestseller, The Falls. It is the story of the bride, who comes to be known as "The Widow Bride of the Falls," and how she believes herself to be damned after the annihilating force of being widowed on her wedding night. It is the story of the man who falls in love with her while she is in distress searching for her husband, the life they build together, the fight this new man takes on which we all remember as the Love Canal. It is the story of the power of the Falls, something anyone who's ever been to Niagara can describe to you as being strangely seductive and frightening at once.

In a larger sense, The Falls is the story of love and redemption, the greatest of all stories to tell, and possibly the only one. It is rich in metaphor and symbolism. You would expect nothing less from Joyce Carol Oates, professor at Princeton and author of We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde.

My only hesitation in recommending The Falls is that its haunting and thick quality did leave me feeling almost nauseous at times. (But I recognize that could have been something I ate more than the text of the novel.) I do know that I couldn't read a steady diet of Joyce Carol Oates, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy her thoroughly from time to time. Her latest bestseller in hardback is The Falls. On the Book Beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I'm Amanda Dickson.

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