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There once was a girl who liked to pretend she was lost  Meg Rosenthal is driving toward the next chapter in her life Winding along a wooded roadway her car moves through a dense forest setting not unlike one in the bedtime stories Meg used to read to her daughter Sally But the girl riding beside Meg is a teenager now and has exchanged the land of make believe for an iPod and some personal space Too much space it seems as the chasm between them has grown since the sudden unexpected death of Meg’s husband  Dire financial straits and a desire for a fresh start take Meg and Sally from a comfortable life on Long Island to a tucked away hamlet in upstate New York Arcadia Falls where Meg has accepted a teaching position at a boarding school The creaky neglected cottage Meg and Sally are to call home feels like an ill portent of things to come but Meg is determined to make the best of it and to make a good impression on the school’s dean the diminutive elegant Ivy St ClareSt Claire however is distracted by a shocking crisis During Arcadia’s First Night bonfire one of Meg’s folklore students Isabel Cheney plunges to her death in a campus gorge Sheriff Callum Reade finds Isabel’s death suspicious but then he is a man with secrets and 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 In Arcadia Falls award winning author Carol Goodman deftly weaves a mesmerizing narrative of passion for revenge for art for love 

10 thoughts on “Arcadia Falls

  1. says:

    This was an advanced reader's copy I received through LibraryThingIn the beginning I really wanted to love this book I really really did Toward the middle of the book I was just hoping to like it By the end I was ready to bid it a not so fond farewell and move on to something else The novel sounds as though it's tailor made for me there's the strained motherdaughter relationship the pastoral setting at a private school for the arts dark and eerie fairytales a judicious dollop of death and a mystery from the past that is being explored in the present It's an ambitious mix and in the end the novel is weakened by its interwoven plot lines as it desperately tries to tie everything up into a neat little bundle Meg Rosenthal is trying to build a new life in the wake of her husband's unexpected death Even unexpected is that he mismanaged their finances and despite the lavish lifestyle to which they were accustomed he left them with virtually nothing In the middle of her PhD in literature Meg sells everything they own and moves her bitter and distant daughter Sally to Arcadia Falls the site of a private school for the arts where she has been offered a teaching position The job is ideal for Meg as she is studying the feminist fairytales written and illustrated by the school's founders Vera Beecher and Lily Eberhardt Sixty or so years ago Lily died under peculiar circumstances while going to meet her lover Virgil Nash and her body wasn't recovered for several months While it appeared as though she fell off a cliff during a blizzard rumors and gossip have circulated in the art community and in the small town of Arcadia Falls for years as to whether Lily's death was just an accident When a young student Isabel Cheney falls to her death in the exact same way Lily did so many years earlier during the pagan celebration that traditionally opens the new school year at Arcadia the uestions about Lily's death resurface and Meg finds the key to unraveling the truth about what really happened at ArcadiaThe book is beautifully written although Goodman does have a tendency to throw in too much minutiae that slows down the pace of the story Other problems that I had with the novel includeA Weak one dimensional characters The school dean Ivy St Clare walks around the school with apparently little to do other than harass Meg which begs the uestion of why she would hire her to begin with She's so obviously the villain that I'm surprised she didn't walk around rubbing her hands together and cackling with all her maniacal might Sally is the stereotypical sullen teenager who hates her mother hates her new school hates the new town hates their new house and well just hates everything Then there's the town sheriff Callum Reade our knight in shining armor who shows up occasionally so Meg can get irritated with him without knowing why and he can get irritated with her without knowing why and then they can have sex later without knowing why I didn't give a rat's ass about any of themB Meg is also an unlikable character She seems passive just allowing things to happen to her At the school she shrinks away from or avoids any situation in which she might have to act like an adult authority figure She spends her days reading Lily's journal and never seems to have any actual teaching responsibilities She occasionally comes up with a lesson plan while crossing the school campus but that's about it C Meg finds Lily's hidden diary and while reading it begins to piece together the events that led to Lily's tragic death However she takes for eh ver to read it I would have had that puppy read in one night and I found the story in the diary to be far superior to the one in present day Lily and Vera were lovers but Lily also fell under the spell of Virgil Nash the painter for whom she became a muse This love triangle and these characters are far intriguing but sadly take a backseat to Meg and SallyD The book seems to want to be in the gothic or magical realism genre but just can't uite bring itself to commit This just pissed me off because it was billed as bothE So many things are just half assed Isabel's death is forgotten as soon as it happens the folk legend of the white woman of the falls is a bizarre little footnote a promising character named Toby Potter is made unforgettable and then readily forgotten etcF Women in this book have a nasty habit of running to the cliff when in danger It's akin to the slasher film phenomenon of the beautiful girl running upstairs instead of out the front door Everyone knows disaster happens at the cliff but they take off like lemmings for it when things go wrongG I had the end figured out halfway through the book I won't spoil it for you but I saw that one coming from about twenty miles away and it reuires some serious suspension of disbelief At one point the main character says I have to admit it all sounds a little far fetched And to that I say spot on Meg spot on Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  2. says:

    25 StarsThis was a misfire for me I don't know if maybe reading it would be better instead of listening to it like I did There were just too many characters and too much confusion and when the secrets of the old boarding school and its surrounding forest were revealed my reaction was this

  3. says:

    Things I LikedThe atmosphere of the book was perfect It was creepy and fairy tale esue and kept reminding me of how gorgeous and mysterious nature can be I loved the aspects of the school's history that related to fairy tales and the mysterious veil that was spread across the whole place The story was pretty intriguing as well near the end But what I think carries this book is the setting and the descriptions of the time the location etc that make you feel like you are a part of this forgotten little corner of the world Goodman has a wonderful ability to create setting Things I Didn't LikeI admit that while the story did suck me in the ending I found just a little too unbelievable I was struck with how convenient how over the top almost melodramatic it became I had a hard time buying into some of the revelations near the end and especially the motivations Still an interesting and absorbing bookFull review at One Librarian's Book Reviews

  4. says:

    I wanted to like this book better than I did Described as an enthralling work of literary fiction that follows a mother and daughter as they uncover the sinister secrets of an isolated boarding school I expected a gripping plot with rich descriptive prose Instead I was frustrated by a plodding unbelievable story line It particularly bothered me that the untimely death of a student at the school barely evoked an emotional response from the characters let alone the parents of the student or the parents of other students who remained completely off the pages Wouldn't there be a bit of an uproar if a student died because of what could be seen as negligence by the school?It also irritated me how the secret diary was treated It had the answer to this mystery and yet the mother reads it bit by bit day by day instead of devouring it If I was her I would have skipped ahead to find out the secret instead of leaving it and worrying about it being found by others This book was an advance reader edition provided for free Unfortunately the storytelling did not live up to its billing for me

  5. says:

    The one other book I've read by this author The Lake of Dead Languages was excellent and is amongst my favourite reads of this year so far It was a disappointment then to find this one so formulaic and uninspired in comparison It was a good story and certainly the kind of thing I generally enjoy the problem for me was that it was so similar to The Lake of Dead LanguagesThe protagonist and narrator is the single mother of an only daughter and at the start of the book has moved from the city to take a teaching job in an isolated old fashioned self contained and seemingly idyllic boarding school There's an old presumed lost journal revealing secrets from the past and students disappearing and dying in mysterious circumstances possibly related to the practise of pagan rites and rituals One of the teachers isn't what they seem to be and there are a lot of secrets regarding parentage and characters suddenly finding out they're actually someone else's daughter And the narrator embarks on a romance with a rugged local police officerThis is a description of the plot of Arcadia Falls; it's also a description of the plot of The Lake of Dead Languages And the latter was written in 2002 while this one was published this year It feels as though the author is just going through the motions and rehashing a previously used plot; the two are remarkably similar and this really inhibited my enjoyment of the book I don't know whether I was perhaps just unlucky in picking the one title that is very like the one I've already read or whether all Goodman's novels are variations on the same theme I still have another book of hers The Ghost Orchid in my to read pile the result of an recommendations based spree so I suppose I'll find out when I get round to reading that

  6. says:

    Arcadia Falls is a book to get lost in Author Goodman takes here signature themes women water and academia and wraps them in a Russian doll of a fairy tale But it's a fairy tale for adults and it's a tautly plotted mystery as well Having lost her husband and most of their money along with him Meg Rosenthal must give up grad school where she's been working on her thesis about folk stories and start anew with her grieving and angry teenage daughter Sally Meg lands a job teaching lit at a remote girls' school in upstate New York which was founded originally as an art colony Coincidentally one of the stories she's been studying about a changeling was written and illustrated by Lily Eberhardt a co founder of the institute Lily set the story in Arcadia Falls and Meg recognizes all the physical elements at once finding herself drawn into Lily's world When first a student dies of a fall and Meg finds Lily's hidden journal her absorption grows intense Few writers are capable of creating atmosphere as well as Goodman Her imagery is so evocative that you find yourself thinking in those same images At Arcadia Falls those images are overwhelmingly feminine The names of the major characters are taken from folklore and mythology The pagan rituals that the students so enjoy as at Samhain and Beltane are meaningful and ominous At times certain characters find their identities becoming entwined with those long dead This is a dreamy but fast paced novel with a jolt of a surprise right in the middle It seems history can repeat itself And reaching the final page is like coming home

  7. says:

    For those that enjoy both historical fiction and mystery this is a good choice Tho most of it takes place in a contemporary town called Arcadia Falls the modern day murder mystery parallels a murder that occured in the 1930s The modern day heroine is Meg She is newly widowed and struggling both financially and emotionally and arrives at Arcadia's private art school with her sullen teenage daughter in tow where she proceeds to teach and unravel two murder mysteries The modern day murder of a teenage girl parallels the murder of an artist in the 1930s Both young women may have been pushed off a cliff Could the same person be responsible for both? Fans of historical fiction will enjoy the excerpts from the 1930s told from the dead lady's journal The journal contains struggling artists lesbian lovers abandoned babies and a love triangle turned sourThis fails to hit the five star mark for me namely because half of the characters are bratty teenagers that I felt needed a good talking to If in my teenage years I had run to a bar with a fake id and got a tattoo in a seedy parlor I would not have been allowed to return to my dorm with just a mere few words of scolding nor simple dish duty as punishment I found that just a bit implausible Thus four stars Higly recommended for those who want a murder mystery minus the blood and goreI won this thru goodreads and I'm very pleased with my first book win

  8. says:

    This book was choppy and uneven Occasionally you would get drawn into certain scenes or characters but other times the poor metaphors and overdone references to modern technology or pop culture made it feel heavy handed The climax scenes were ridiculously written like a bad lifetime movie but other plot advancing scenes of exploration and observation could be fairly intriguing I wish the depth and moodiness of some of these moments persisted and that characters could become real and fleshed out and less so blank proxies for the reader to port themselves intoreturnreturnThis could not have been obviously written for middle aged women and while I understand that's the target audience it became downright pandering at times It feels like Goodman is churning these out based on a formulaic framework for this sort audiencenovel I would love a developed thoughtful and deep version of this book as I thought the concept and setting were really cool and could be done further justice

  9. says:

    UGH The only reason I'm putting this on Good Reads is TO SAVE YOU because if you read the back it sounds like a book that is interesting gothic and has a good mystery It ends up trying to beat you over the head with about a billion different moral platitudes not to mention a complete disintegration of narrative thread and implausible tying it all together in the end Plotholes big enough to drop a truck through and my biggest bug 2 different narrative voices that actually sound THE SAME Awful awful Do not waste your time I saw people were giving it 3 or 4 stars which boggles my mind

  10. says:

    Carol Goodman is not an author I read for innovation and surprise This novel with its setting in a boarding school in a beautiful and secluded area of upstate New York where an over educated protagonist uses her knowledge of a specific art form in this case early 20th century US folklore to solve a mystery with ties to the past and the present is so derivative of Goodman's earlier works that it feels like a third draft than a separate novel but I loved it anyway Goodman's power does not lie in her mysteries themselves the villains tend to be easy to spot the secrets of the past fairly obvious to readers while the protagonist fumbles through a half hearted investigation but in the lyricism of her prose and the enchanting way that she develops her settings For all that the school in this book echoes the artists' colony in The Ghost Orchid and the school in The Lake of Dead Languages and even the hotel in The Seduction of Water it still presents uniue features that make it unforgettable like the way the paths and trees and buildings create a living fairy tale and the constant silent threat of the dramatic cliffs and waterfall The mother daughter heart of the story also rings very true as Goodman presses on parallels between traditional changeling stories and inevitable personality shifts when young people enter their teen years Goodman also uses the family structure at the heart of the book as a way to humanize recent current events with the father as a man who gave up his artistic dreams for a Wall Street job that would provide material security for his family but pays the price shortly before the book begins My only real complaint with the book was the pacing of the parallel story from a historical figure's diary While the writing style of the diary was relatively realistic a great improvement over The Night Villa the protagonist only covered a few pages at a time Of course this slow pace was for Goodman to have time to develop her present day mystery without her characters learning the truth too uickly but it was distractingly frustrating when the protagonist lacked the work ethic to put in a solid evening of reading after all she couldn't disrupt her busy schedule of not preparing lesson plans not pursuing a romance and not interacting with her distant daughter If the diary had somehow been split into sections that were discovered separately that could have allowed Goodman to maintain her intended pace in a slightly plausible way