Down From Cascom Mountain by Anne Joslin Williams
Publication Date: June 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 335pp
(Received from TLC Tours for an honest review)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Ann Joslin Williams on the WEB: website, facebook
Excerpt from Down From Cascom Mountain
Synopsis (Book Blurb):
Ann Joslin Williams grew up observing the craft of writing: her father, Thomas Williams, was a National Book Award-winning novelist. Many of his stories were set in the fictional town of Leah, New Hampshire, and on nearby Cascom Mountain, locations that closely mirrored the landscape of the Williamses' real hometown. With Down from Cascom Mountain, Ann Joslin Williams proves herself a formidably talented novelist in her own right, while paying tribute to her father by setting her debut novel in the same fictional world-the New Hampshire he imagined and that she has always known.
In Down from Cascom Mountain, newlywed Mary Hall brings her husband to settle in the rural New Hampshire of her youth to fix up the house she grew up in and to reconnect to the land that defined her, with all its beauty and danger. But on a mountain day hike, she watches helplessly as her husband falls to his death. As she struggles with her sudden grief, in the days and months that follow, Mary finds new friendships-with Callie and Tobin, teenagers on the mountain club's crew, and with Ben, the gentle fire watchman. All are haunted by their own losses, but they find ways to restore hope in one another, holding firmly as they navigate the rugged terrain of the unknown and unknowable, and loves lost and found.
Down From Cascom Mountain is the debut novel from Ann Joslin Williams. Williams takes readers back to the fictional town of Leah, New Hampshire, made famous in the writing of her father, acclaimed author, Thomas Williams. This book is set in the shadow Cascom Mountain, known for it's haunting stories and mystical appearance. Williams has created characters that readers will identify with and become emotionally invested in, in this portrait of grief and second chances.
Mary Hall was raised at the foot of Cascom Mountain and after she leaves and marries she decides to bring her husband back to the mountain to restore the home where she spent her childhood. Mary is drawn back to the rural setting and the simpler pace of like in Leah, New Hampshire, but things quickly change when Michael plunges to his death on a day hike up on the mountain. Mary is filled with grief and pain, but still finds solace in the new friends she meets including her troubled teenage neighbor, Tobin. Tobin's mother is mentally unstable and he fears leaving her to go to college. Callie is a young teenager working at the Mountain Lodge for the summer, who tries to help Mary deal with her grief, all the while dealing with issues of her own. Ben is fire watchman, that has dealt with loss of his own in the form of his true love. Together Mary and her friends find ways to draw strength from each in the shadow of the mountain.
Ann Joslin Williams has crafted a stirring portrait of grief in its many forms in her debut novel, Down from Cascom Mountain. Williams is able to show this strong emotion in several different ways through the characters in her book. I thought the author did a fantastic job of giving readers a glimpse into the process of grief and the stages a person goes though, as well as showing that grief takes many forms and is different for each person.
Mary Hall is dealing with sudden grief. After bringing her husband Michael back to live at the foot of Cascom Mountain he is suddenly killed and she is left with a gapping hole in her life and heart. Williams is able to show how this sudden grief affects Mary and what goes into her healing process. She draws strength from the other characters in the book, that she meets along the way. But each one of them is dealing with their own forms of grief. I enjoyed the way that Williams portrays Mary. She seems like a woman who is well grounded. She is somehow connected to her rural roots and the mountain. She is determined and strong and faces her grief in a simple and urgent manner.
Tobin, Mary's teenage neighbor is dealing with a different kind of grief. Tobin's mother is unstable and he feels responsible for her. Though he is able to finish school at Exeter at only fifteen, he doesn't believe he can leave her to go to college. Tobin is dealing with the grief of loosing his childhood and his future. In spite of himself he blames his mother for his loss and he wonders about his own stability. He attaches himself to Mary as her protector and champion. But he is still a young boy, and his life begins to change when he meets a young girl.
Callie is a teenager who is spending the summer working on Cascom Mountain at the mountain lodge. Callie is struggling to find who she is and who she wants to be. When she becomes entangled in a situation with an older man, she begins to feel uncomfortable and we her feel the loss of her innocence. It is almost a coming of age story for Callie. I think lots of young girls will be able to identify with this character more than any other in the book. Her loss and grief come from the passing of her childhood, as she becomes a young woman. I thought Williams did an excellent job of portraying the heart of a young girl.
Ben is a gentle man. He is unhurried in life and has a great clarity about him. He is bemoaning the loss of his first love. His grief is poignant and heartfelt. His relationship with Mary is sweet and full of wonder and appreciation for her. He is portrayed a good man who has suffered a lot and he and Mary are able to draw strength from each other. I loved the way that the author didn't leave each character the same. There is some change or epiphany for each of them and somehow they are all connected to the mountain. The mountain itself takes on the characteristics of a character in the story and it is up to the reader to decide if it is a place of loss or a place of strength.
This is a well written debut that is character driven. Williams does a great job of creating characters that readers can identify with and invest in. I recommend this one to readers who are looking for something different. A story that is about more than the typical fare of romance or mystery. It is a very emotional book and the reader will find themselves feeling a great deal as they read. It's a book about grief, but it's also about healing. It may sound sad, but in the end it's really about moving on and what happens after you experience grief. I really enjoyed it.
Down From Cascom Mountain is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Ann Joslin Williams is the author of The Woman in the Woods, a collection of linked stories (Eastern Washington University Press, 2007), which won the 2005 Spokane Prize. She earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She is also the recipient of a 2008 National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her work has appeared Storyquarterly, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Her first novel, Down From Cascom Mountain, will be published by Bloomsbury, USA, in spring, 2011.
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