(Reviewed by Don Jung)
What does it take to be happy? Finding oneself in this time of uncertainty is a constant theme in Bruce Ferber’s second novel, Cascade Falls.
This novel features a host of interesting characters that could be any family in 21st century America. We have Ted Johnson, the patriarch of the family who builds a real estate empire and yet lives on the edge. On the surface he seems to be very successful but his flamboyant lifestyle slowly deteriorates as the story continues. Jeannie, his wife of forty years, slowly discovers that her life is just a façade.
Their son, Danny, comes out of a failed writing career to carry on the family business in Phoenix. Danny’s wife, Maya, has a loyalty to the family but longs to leave Phoenix and its tract home environment to do something, but she’s not sure what.
In the midst of this setting, in comes Owen, a home repairman, to shake the boat. He becomes the “therapist” to all of the family members as they divulge their true feelings.
That said, Cascade Falls won’t appeal to those seeking a light summer read. It’s quite dark. The novel examines a deteriorating family who seems to have it all and is the envy of the community. In reality, they’re anything but that.
Though I found the ending disappointing, the road to getting there was well worth my time invested in the book. Ferber develops the characters in a way that surprises the reader. As I thought I knew each family member, I realized that they aren’t at all what they seem.
Cascade Falls will appeal to those who want to examine the modern “successful” American family and question if this is a common illusion of the American dream. Also, for those caught in the middle of it, how can one recover to find life worth living?