book review: Down from Cascom Mountain by Ann Joslin Williams
The basics: Ann Joslin Williams sets her debut novel (she has a collection of linked stories, The Woman in the Woods) in the rugged mountains near fictional Leah, New Hampshire, a town created by her father, Thomas Williams. Down from Cascom Mountain is mostly the story of Mary, who grew up on the mountain with a famous writer father, and has now returned.
My thoughts: Although the story starts with Mary, once the novel falls into its own patterns, Mary shares the narration with Callie, a remarkable sixteen-year-old working on the mountain this summer; and Tobin, a gifted but troubled teenager who grew up on the mountain. It's a refreshingly real motley crew of characters, and I enjoyed getting to know all of those who spent the summer on Cascom Mountain.
Williams captures the mountains of New Hampshire in a lyrical way that will resonate with readers familiar with New England as well as those who aren't. It's a lushly written novel full of description of the place as well as its people. It's emotionally raw, and despite how much I was enjoying it, there were a few times (in the two days it took me to read it) I had to stop and let the characters rest for a moment. Still, while I was reading this novel, the characters were always in my thoughts.
Favorite passage: "Still, you couldn't ever let go entirely, you still had to believe that someday, somewhere, all that was missing would somehow appear and come out right. Even when you knew, you knew, what you were looking for was just an illusion, a dream, a hope, a myth. And what was truly possible might be in places you never thought to look before. Or had looked, but hadn't seen."
The verdict: As much as I enjoyed the experience of reading this novel, the end result didn't quite come together for me emotionally. Rather, the storylines came together a little bit too much. With novels that feel as real as this one did, I wish the ending weren't quite as neat. It's an incredibly personal, small quibble, but it kept this novel from being a 5-star read. Still, I will eagerly await the next novel from Ann Joslin Williams and highly recommend it.
Rating: 4.25 stars (out of 5)
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher via TLC Book Tour (see the full tour schedule)
Learn more about Ann Joslin Williams on her website.
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