Cascade by Maryanne OHara

Today at Great New Books, we have the pleasure of hosting guest contributor Maryanne O’Hara, author of the novel, CASCADE.

Thanks to Maryanne and her publisher, Penguin / Viking, we have a copy of Cascade to give away to one lucky commenter at the end of this post (details below). Thank you, Maryanne, for joining us at Great New Books and sharing one of your favorite reads with us today!

Author, Maryanne O’Hara, on one of her recent favorite books:


The older I get, the more I ask of books. There are simply too many of them and often, what some people are raving about doesn’t quite work for me. I look for first pages that introduce complicated characters or a situation that make me curious and reflective. I look for prose that sings.

GLOW, by Jessica Maria Tuccelli, sings. Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

I was actually saving this book for summer, but one night, I decided to check out the first pages. An hour later, I hadn’t moved from my chair. When I read gorgeous prose, something physical occurs: my chest and throat fill with exhilaration. I love when that happens, and it happened a lot with this book as I read passage after beautiful passage. In fact, I am one of those people who marks, dog-ears, and highlights. My copy of GLOW is now a mess of notes, highlights, and exclamation points.

Set primarily in the mountains of Georgia, GLOW moves back and forth in time, between 1836 and 1941, and highlights bonds of both blood and love that have been forged between generations of blacks, whites, and Cherokees. The story is filled with magic, history, and heartbreak, with violence and racism and fierce, fierce love. The characters are so alive that I want to go back in time and meet Willie Mae, the wise and comforting herbalist and former slave. I want to take care of Ella Frances McGee, the scrappy young girl who straddles each world that GLOW conjures. Most of all, I want to re-read passages like this, when Willie Mae is sold, separated from her mother:

I saw Mother running. Her eyes so wide I could see the crazy in them.

She was running and tripping and running.

The earth failing beneath her feet.

Her arms flailing through the air.

She was screaming. She was screaming. “De gal, she b’long tuh me, she b’long tuh me!”

Wrenching stuff. But so good. I highly recommend this, and so did The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, when they named GLOW an Okra Pick—their highest recognition.



Maryanne O’Hara was the longtime associate fiction editor at Ploughshares, Boston’s award-winning literary journal. Her short fiction has been published in The North American Review, Five Points, Redbook, The Crescent Review, and several anthologies.

Find more about Maryanne at her website and blog:

More about Maryanne’s novel, CASCADE:

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will become engrossed in this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?

To enter the drawing to win the copy of Cascade, leave a comment (any comment) below, from Wednesday, June 5 until Friday, June 7 at midnight Eastern time. Great New Books will email the winners individually and announce them in the comments on Saturday, June 8. Thank you for joining us!