Friday, July 8, 2011

Arcadia Falls - Review

Title: Arcadia Falls
Author: Carol Goodman
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Goodreads Summary:

Financial straits and a desire for a fresh start take recently widowed Meg Rosenthal and her aloof teenage daughter, Sally, to Arcadia Falls, a tucked-away hamlet in upstate New York where Meg has accepted a teaching position at a boarding school. The creaky, neglected cottage they’ll be calling home feels like an ill omen, but Meg is determined to make the best of it. Then a shocking crisis strikes: During Arcadia’s First Night bonfire, one of Meg’s folklore students plunges to her death in a campus gorge. Sheriff Callum Reade finds the presumed accident suspicious, but then, he is a man with a dark past himself. Meg is unnerved by Reade’s interest in the girl’s death, and as long-buried secrets emerge, she must face down her own demons and the danger threatening to envelop Sally. As the past clings tight to the present, the shadows, as if in a terrifying fairy tale, grow longer and deadlier.

My thoughts:

First let me say that Carol Goodman is one of my favorite authors. I love her books, I love how there is always a story within a story, intellectuals pursuing degrees in obscure romantic subjects, rituals and traditions that are based in mythology or paganism, and what sounds like great architecture in great locations.

This book had them all, everything I hope and expect in her books. It must seem formulaic to some, but to me, it is why I read them. I like to visit these worlds where characters study Latin or folklore and fairy tales, and live in crumbling houses in enchanted forests. Meg, the main character, repeatedly shares the story of The Changeling Child, about a girl who leaves her family for one year and creates a changeling out of a beech root, that takes her place at home. She had made a deal with a witch that she would live there and help the witch for this year, in return for wealth and happiness for her family. After the year is up, the girl realizes that she has made a mistake and is trapped at the witch's house, and can't return home. One night, she figures out a way to make it through the woods to her home- after fighting her way there, she looks down at her home, and sees that everyone is happy and prospering, just as she had made the deal for. As she stands there, she struggles with herself, wondering if she really does want to return home after all, or if she wants to return to the witch and the woods, and to the art that she had been creating there.

This story of the Changeling is important since it parallels many of the characters motivations in Arcadia Falls, the most prevalent throughout being whether a woman can be both a mother and an artist, or if she can only be one or the other. Meg, her mother, her grandmother, and Lily, a character from the past, all had to deal with this question, and it seems they all have different views and made different choices.

Something else that made me think- Meg asked her class who they would be, if they could be someone else, or if they would just stay themselves. I think if it were me, I would want to remain myself, maybe with some changes, but still my life, myself.

My only two criticisms are that the last, final, surprise twist at the end seemed unnecessary, and that when a student in the book dies, there is no mention of parents suing the school or other parents pulling their kids from the school. But maybe this was to illustrate just how isolated unto itself the school was.

What do you think? Do you think a woman can be both a mother and an artist? And if you could be someone else, would you? Who would you be?


  1. This sounds like an amazing book! I will have to add it to my TBR list.

    I don't see why a woman couldn't be both a mother and an artist. I guess I'll have to read the book to understand where that is coming from.

    While I don't always like myself, I wouldn't want to be someone else-just an improved version of me.

  2. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    The mother/artist question- I think the book is making the statement that if you are an artist, you need to let it consume you, and perhaps if you are a mother you wouldn't be able to fully give yourself to your art. I personally feel a woman can be both, but I don't think that a person needs to be a zealot for their art in order to be a great artist. :)


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