Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stories of Niagara Falls

I realize I haven't done a book list in quite a long time, even though I find them fun to do. So, in honour of my trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake last weekend, I thought I'd gather up a book list about a place just down the road, Niagara Falls.

This is upcoming this fall from HarperCollins and I'm eagerly anticipating it. Written by a woman who grew up in Niagara Falls, the story starts in 1915 and follows 17 yr old Elizabeth Heath. She comes from a privileged family, but tragedy strikes and she must befriend a riverman...the story promises romance and an overview of the history of the Falls. Can't wait!

A dark and dysfunctional family tale; it centres itself around Em and Blue, twins who take different paths to surviving their messed up childhood with an alcoholic mother and a totally loser of a dad who eventually abandons them. They grow up in Niagara Falls.

3. Falling / Anne Simpson

A young girl drowns tragically off a beach in Nova Scotia. One year later, her mother and brother return to the mother's childhood home in Niagara Falls to scatter her ashes. The return to the family, now only one man (a former daredevil) and his son, causes all kinds of re-emergence of emotions and memories. Will they remain mired in the past and in grief, or be able to move forward?

4. The Whirlpool / Jane Urquhart

Urquhart's first novel, this is about an undertaker's widow living in Niagara Falls in the late 19th century, who must retrieve both bodies and various items from the whirlpool beneath the Falls. The widow also has a son, who does not speak. It's told in Gothic style and incorporates descriptions of Robert Browning, as well as the characters of a lovesick poet and his beloved, an admirer of Browning's poems.

5. Falling Angels / Barbara Gowdy

Another tale of family dysfunction, this one is about three sisters who deal with their childhood traumas in different ways, but all have to come to terms with the horror in their family: the fact that their mother dropped their baby brother over Niagara Falls. Though most of the book is not set there, the Falls loom large over the story and make a final reappearance as well.

6. Murder on location / Howard Engel

Book #3 in the Benny Cooperman series, this mystery has Benny searching for a missing woman among the Hollywood types invading Niagara Falls to make a movie, The Ice Bridge.

7. The Widows / Suzette Mayr

Published by small publisher NeWest, this is a story of three old women who decide to break out of the constraints of their age and steal a barrel to go over Niagara Falls in. And they do it. There is more to the novel, however; questions of racism, homophobia and other issues play a part and make it a wide ranging, fascinating tale.

8. The Falls / Joyce Carol Oates

I think the question here should be, is there anywhere or anything Oates hasn't written about? This book opens with a man throwing himself over the Falls the morning after his wedding. The grieving widow attracts the attention of a local attorney who falls in love with her -- eventually they marry and have children. She can never attain full happiness however, and her lawyer husband is a workaholic. Happiness and fulfillment must be found by their children.

9. City of Light / Lauren Belfer

Set in Buffalo and encompassing the power station at the New York side of Niagara Falls, this thriller set at the turn of the century gives us Buffalo in its heyday. High society, lots of money, big industry, and of course, crime. Absorbing reading, utilizing the early industrial potential of the Falls.

10. Stone House Diaries / Robert C. Moore

A historical novel published by a very small independent press, this book looks intriguing because it takes us through much of the history of the development of the town of Niagara Falls. All the way back from Loyalists crossing over to Canada forward, the story follows the families who build the town. If you like history this would be a good bet.

11. Mirette and Bellini cross Niagara Falls / Emily Arnold McCully

For my final choice, a selection from this lovely picture book author's series about Mirette. In this book, Mirette and Bellini go to North America to walk across Niagara Falls on a wire, after having been challenged by the boastful Mr. Patch. Drama, skullduggery, and a new friend saving the day makes for a delightful story for ages 5 and up.


  1. Gasp! I was at Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake last week! We might have crossed paths! Thanks for all these lovely recommendations (I was very impressed with the whirlpool.)

  2. Jenny - I hope you weren't the lady I pushed off the sidewalk... ha ha ha, kidding! Can you imagine if we passed each other?! Hope you'll enjoy at least one of these books.

  3. LOL I live a 20 min drive from the falls.. Born and partially raised here, moved away and then back again 5 years ago, no place is the same as it is here. My son just told me the other night that he likes it here more then the other places hes lived.

    Thanks for the book recommendations, The 1st one on the list is one I remember reading about a few months ago, and you just reminded me again to to and get it when it is out.


  4. "Is there anywhere or anything Oates hasn't written about?" That question made me laugh...and I guess the answer is probably not! The Falls was a very good audiobook. The Stone Diaries is the only other one I've read.

  5. Having grown up in Rochester, I've been to Niagara a few times, but I've never read a book about the falls. This is a useful list -- thanks!

  6. Marci - neat! Maybe we'll cross paths someday as well :)

    JoAnn - yes, I have to say that Oates' extraordinary output overwhelms me at times! She is some kind of superhuman writer.

    Dorothy - I hope you find something to enjoy off this list; most of them are still on my own TBR.

  7. Thanks for the recommendations! That's great! I think the only book I have with the Falls as a major part is Niagara by Pierre Berton. I bought it in Niagara Falls and have not read it yet. Some of these fiction books look like they would be good, though.

  8. What a wonderful idea for a list! I was at Niagara last week picking up a friend and then dropping him off again after a few days, as he crossed the border to visit us! :D


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