I have finished The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates for my library's reading group that is meeting on Tuesday evening. This is the first full-length novel of Oates' I've read, and I was especially curious to see if I felt the same about her writing after reading this book as I did with the two shorter novels I read. All I can say is what a remarkably gifted storyteller she is.
The Falls, of course, is Niagra Falls - that beautiful, mystical natural wonder between Canada and upstate New York on the Niagra River. I remember visiting there as a child in 1965, recalling the sound, the mist, and the colored lights at night. What a beautiful sight it was. What I had forgotten about was that the city of Niagra Falls, NY was home to the infamous "Love Canal", now synonymous with cancer and all the evils of chemical waste dumps for radioactive materials.
In The Falls, Joyce Carol Oates has done a tremendous job intertwining the myths of Niagra Falls (suicides, daredevils, visions) and the historical facts surrounding Love Canal (people vs. chemical companies/government) with a cast of memorable characters. Oates digs deep within them to investigate and expose the danger of love that suffocates instead of nurtures, the fear of "going outside the family" and ultimately the fear of being left alone. Her story of overcoming these fears and surviving the love is riveting and well-worth the time spent reading.