Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Arcadia Falls is a novel about the relationships of women to each other and to art. It starts out following Meg Rosenthal, a recently widowed woman who has been awarded a teaching position at The Arcadia School, a private high school for the arts in rural New York. Meg is driving to the village of Arcadia with her teenage daughter, Sally. The plan is for Sally to attend the school where Meg will be teaching.
Meg is driving an eleven-year-old Jaguar that sums up her situation in life. The car belonged to Jude, her deceased husband. The Jaguar brand represents the opulence of their former lifestyle, but the car is now “past due for its service appointment” and has a set of bald tires. Jude had gambled their money trying to start a hedge fund, leaving Meg and Sally with little to get by on. Their car and their lifestyles have suffered.
Meg is teaching a folklore class with a concentration on The Changeling Girl, an illustrated fairy tale written by Lily Eberhardt, who, along with Vera Beecher, Lily's mentor and lover, founded the school. The story of The Changeling Girl parallels the events happening to Meg and Sally. Along with Lily's book there are letters and a journal that are critical to the novel, allowing the story to move back and forth between what happened years earlier, when the school was first founded, and what is happening in the present.
There are only three important men in this book: Jude, Meg's husband, who died before the story started, Virgil Nash, Lily's male lover, who brings an aspect of sexual attraction and deceit to the book, and Callum Reade, the local sheriff, who is a kind and stable force in Meg's life. Those characters are treated well, but the book is about women.
Goodman treats the lesbian relationship between Vera and Lily with respect and also handles the importance of art in a woman's life very well. The theme of mother/daughter relationships runs throughout the book through Meg and Sally as well as a child of Lily's that is given up for adoption.
Arcadia Falls is insightful and fun. I plan to read more by Carol Goodman.
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