Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

Meg Rosenthal's husband died. Now she needs to get a job because she has already sold everything of value.  She finds a job at a boarding school where she and Sally will get a place to live as part of her salary. It is a school that teaches art.  That is just what they both need.
But a student dies on the first night of them being at Arcadia. Meg needs to find out what happened.  Isabel's death and the real story behind the death of Lily (one of the school's founders) are intertwined.

I really liked this book. I found the story enticing. I wanted to know just what happened to Lily.  I enjoyed the fairy tales she wrote.  Meg and Sally's relationship was very interesting too.

Summary from the author's site:
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. Clare.
St. Clare, 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.
~Synopsis courtesy of Random House, Inc.

Excerpt:
Chapter One
"We're lost," my daughter tells me for the third time in an hour. "I told you we should have gotten GPS. Lexy's mother has it and they never get lost."

"We're not lost," I reply, biting back the urge to tell Sally that one, we can no longer afford the things Lexy's mother can, and two, the only places Lexy's mother drives to are the Americana shopping center and the hair salon, two destinations within a five-mile radius of their Kings Point home, and so she is not likely to get lost. Instead I say: "We're taking the scenic route."

Sally rolls her eyes, throwing her head, neck, and shoulders into a gesture so practiced it has attained the grace of a yoga asana. I told her this a few weeks ago, making a joke of it. It was the kind of thing she and I used to joke about: eye-rolling teenagers. Instead of laughing, she asked me with exaggerated patience not to try to be funny anymore. And would I please stop comparing everything to yoga, she added as she plugged her iPod buds into her ears.

"Scenic would imply that we were able to see something. How remote is this place?"

"It's only two and a half hours to the city."

"There's a train?" Sally asks, stretching her neck and sniffing as if scenting the air for freedom. When she sits up straight you can see how lovely she is-like an exotic wading bird craning its long neck.

"Well, no, I don't think so. There might be a bus."

"Oh," Sally says, slouching back into her more characteristic slump. She pulls her long legs-in the prefaded jeans that cost more than the rent on my first apartment-up to her chin and plugs in her iPod. "Great. A bus." I may as well have suggested she take a coach and four. Good thing. The last thing I want is Sally running off to the city.

She has a point about the limited visibility of this scenic drive, though. As soon as we got off the highway a low-lying fog had settled on either side of the narrow two-lane country road snaking up into the mountains. I could point out that she used to like fog, that I used to wake her up early on foggy mornings so I could walk her to school. We'd pretend that we were lost in the woods. I'd be Hansel to her Gretel, the Woodsman to her Little Red Riding Hood. She liked the idea of being lost. Her favorite stories were about children lost in the woods and the tricks they used to find their way home-bread crumb trails and yarn unraveled from sweater cuffs. It was a game you could enjoy when you knew what the ending would be: a lighted cottage window shining through the dark, all disfiguring spells broken, and the world restored to what it should be. I couldn't blame her for losing faith in that kind of storybook ending.

It isn't much fun being really lost, which we are now. Although I printed out the directions from the school's website, they'd seemed a little unclear to me. When I called for clarification, Ivy St. Clare, the dean, had laughed. "Oh, we consider it part of the application procedure. Only those who can find Arcadia belong here." Then she had gone on to give a series of impressionistic route suggestions. "By all means take the scenic route that follows Wittekill Creek. Turn right when you see an old decrepit barn-you're a mile from the school when you see that-and then up a steep hill and past the apple orchard where we used to have concerts on summer evenings." Then she had gone into a ten-minute reverie on the days when the Arcadia School was still an arts colony with famous musicians, poets, and painters who all collaborated (a word she used frequently and invested with some magical import). Even Virgil Nash, the famous painter and one of the first teachers at the colony, had played the mandolin. Over the phone, I'd had to listen to a long anecdote about Virgil Nash and some women potters before getting a momentary chance to ask her what I did after we passed the apple orchard (Turn left at the sign of the White Witch). I have the directions on a Post-it note affixed to the dashboard (Poor man's GPS, I quipped to Sally earlier, forgetting her banning of jokes), but they won't do me much good if I can't see the orchard or the sign.

"Do those look like apple trees?" I ask, not really expecting a response from my plugged-in daughter. She gives herself away, though, by glancing out the window at the hobble-branched shapes looming out of the fog on the left side of the road.

"Hey," she says, peeling the buds out of her ears, "those remind me of that story you used to read to me when I was little. Trees like gnomes on crutches marching through the mire."

"They are those trees," I say, trying to keep my voice flat. Enthusiasm, another emotion under interdiction, is a surefire way to scare off any nascent curiosity in Sally. I'm thrilled, though, that she remembers the story. "Remember, I told you that the two women who wrote and illustrated the story, Vera Beecher and Lily Eberhardt, lived here."

"Oh yeah, the lesbians you're writing about."

"We don't know that they were lesbians, honey," I point out, wondering what her current stance on lesbianism is. Last year there was a flurry of nervous e-mails among the mothers of Sally's friends about a new trend in bisexual experimentation, which basically boiled down to Jessica Feingold having made up a story about two girls making out at her Sweet Sixteen. When I asked Sally about it, she dismissed the whole incident as fallout from a recent TV episode, which featured two girls kissing. Then she told me I was no longer allowed to use the words sexuality, gender, or making out.

"Unmarried women often lived together back then. That's how the art colony was started. Some women artists from the city banded together to live up here so that they could work as artists instead of having to get married and spend their time raising families." I pause, wondering if I've just made it sound like having children and pursuing an artistic career are mutually exclusive and how I could explain that back then-in the twenties and thirties-they often were. "These women met at an art school in New York and decided they could pursue careers as artists better if they didn't marry. One of them, Vera Beecher, offered her family estate. Then a bunch of other artists joined them-"

"Like a hippie commune?" Sally asks.

Read more here.

Pages: 355
Published: 2010

No comments: