Carol Goodman Arcadia Falls: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780345497543

Arcadia Falls: A Novel

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9780345497543: Arcadia Falls: A Novel
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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.

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Review:

Carol Goodman on Arcadia Falls: The Red Rose Girls and the Three A.M. Demons

There were two threads that went into the origin of Arcadia Falls. One rather academic and intellectual, one deeply personal.

The first came from an exhibit I saw at the Norman Rockwell Museum in the fall of 2003. The exhibit featured three women artists: Jessie Wilcox Smith, Violet Oakley, and Elizabeth Shippen Green. The women had met at the turn of the 19th century in a class at Drexel University taught by Howard Pyle. Pyle encouraged the three women to throw in their lot together because, he said, "Once a woman marries, that's the end of her." When they moved into an old inn called The Red Rose, Pyle began to call them the Red Rose Girls.

The exhibit was inspiring for its luminous illustrations and paintings--many of which I recognized from the pictures I'd hung on my daughter's nursery walls--but also for its story. These three women had found a way to be artists in an era that prohibited women from taking life drawing classes because it was considered to make them unfit for their true vocations as wives. Although the partnership eventually broke up when Eilizabeth Shippen Green married, Violet Oakley and Jessie Wilcox Smith went on to work as artists for the rest of their lives.

Implanted in my mind was the germ of an idea for a novel about a group of women artists who band together to pursue their art outside of the confines of marriage, which would have to be a historical piece because, after all, women could have families and pursue artistic careers in the present. Right?

At some point in the story's development, while I wrote other novels and my daughter grew up, I realized that I wanted to juxtapose a modern story against the historical one. The character of Meg Rosenthal, traveling upstate with her teenaged daughter Sally, emerged, according to my notebooks, in 2007, and it came out of a very visceral fear. Specifically that kind of fear that wakes you up at three in the morning and then keeps you awake, alone in the dark, spinning out worst-case scenarios until dawn. My yoga teacher told me once that there's a tradition in Vedic mythology that 3 a.m. is when you're most vulnerable to demons. When my daughter was little those demons gave me nightmares about losing her in crowded department stores. When she grew into a teenager I’d wake in the middle of the night with images of car wrecks and drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies and depression. There are ways you can lose a child who's sitting right in front of you. In fact, you are losing them, little by little, to adulthood. The child you knew is slowly vanishing, hopefully to become an adult you recognize.

I suppose it was these fears that made me think about the changeling story. Of all fairy tales it's perhaps the most horrifying to a parent--the idea that your child could be snatched away from you and replaced by a wooden (in some of the stories the replacement is actually made of wood), unfeeling creature that looks like your child but isn't.

The changeling story is about infants, but it occurred to me during one of my 3 a.m. bouts that it could describe the experience of raising a teenager. What parent of a teenager hasn't felt at some moment that the sweet child who doted on your every word has been replaced by a touchy, moody, eye-rolling teenager?

And so, I started Arcadia Falls with a mother and a daughter in a car. The mother, Meg, is trying to cajole and humor her daughter Sally, who's furious at her mother for moving her before her junior year of high school. Sally, plugged into her iPod, grows more distant the more her mother tries to connect. Because that to me is the hardest thing about raising a teenager. When they're little you know how to comfort them, but when they're older and in pain sometimes it seems like you only make it worse trying to comfort them. Sometimes you have to step back and let them find their own way out of their pain. It's like standing on the edge of a dark forest and watching your child enter the woods armed only with a covered basket and a handful of bread crumbs and hoping they'll find their way to the other side. All you can do is hope they remember the lessons you've taught them--be kind to helpless creatures, don't trust wolves dressed up as men, but do trust in your own strength and bravery.

Meg Rosenthal is afraid that she's failed to teach Sally that last lesson, precisely because she herself has sacrificed a piece of herself to be a good mother. She abandoned her own dreams of being an artist in order to be a mother.

So, I suppose the central question in Arcadia Falls is whether it's possible to be a good parent and an artist. Art--at least the kind I know first hand, writing--requires a tremendous investment of time and attention. When I'm absorbed in writing a book the world I'm creating sometimes seems more real than the world around me.

Over the last 15 years I think I've balanced being a writer and a mother pretty well. I've written nine books and never once forgot to pick my daughter up from school. (I did forget to pick up the dog from the groomers once, but that's another story.) I may have been distracted now and then, but I've also spent hours talking to my daughter about writing and storytelling, learning as much from her as she's learned from me. I think that being a parent has enriched my ability to write--and I hope that being a writer has made me at least a more interesting parent to her--but it's always been a balancing act. One I consider myself lucky to have been able to even attempt.



About the Author:

Carol Goodman is the author of The Lake of Dead Languages, The Seduction of Water, The Drowning Tree, The Ghost Orchid, The Sonnet Lover, and The Night Villa. The Seduction of Water won the Hammett Prize, and others of her novels have been nominated for the Dublin/IMPAC Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her fiction has been translated into eight languages. She lives in New York State with her family.
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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. Seller Inventory # AAC9780345497543

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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. 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. Seller Inventory # BTE9780345497543

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