The year is 1915. Bess Heath is brought home from private school for the summer to learn of her father's dismissal from the Niagara Power Company. Her mother now takes in sewing in order to feed the family. Bess's sister Isabel is a former shell of her vivacious self, having been dumped by her fiancee.
On the way home from boarding school Bess meets Tom Cole who helps her and her mother with her trunk. Bess is drawn to Tom but he is not of their social strata and therefore unsuitable. Tom is a riverman. He understands the river and its vagaries. He becomes a local hero in performing several daring river rescues. Tom hates what the power companies are doing to the river.
This story weaves the Niagara River around the lives of Tom and Bess. It is simply a wonderful read. The history of World War I and the start-up of electric power at Niagara Falls was fascinating to read about. There were several times I had to tell other people what I had just learned. Did you know.....?
The Niagara River is a big part of the book and almost seems like an additional character. Buchanan has written a wonderful piece of Canadian historical fiction. I live near to Niagara Falls and can only wonder if double the water were to be flowing down the river what the falls would look like today! Loved, loved, loved it!!!
First Line: "The stone walls of Loretto Academy are so thick I can sit curled up on a windowsill, arms around the knees tucked beneath my chin."