|Ruth Ryan Langan: Paradise Falls|
Berkley Sensation (Paperback), ISBN 0425194841
Remember the last book you read that made you smile? That made you just feel good? That made you wish for more? Then maybe you'll want to read Paradise Falls by Ruth Ryan Langan.
Fiona Downy, daughter of two Irish immigrants, dreams of attending the prestigious New England college where her father teaches. But his sudden death destroys her dreams. In 1890, Fiona has no means to afford her schooling, let alone support her grieving mother.
In desperation Fiona accepts a teaching job in Paradise Falls, Michigan. Here she finds everything her parents meant to escape in Ireland: poverty, illiteracy, backbreaking work, prejudice, unhappiness. She vows to remain in Paradise Falls only as long as she needs to save enough money to send for her mother and leave. She doesn't expect to fall in love with Grayson Haydn, eldest son of her host family -- a family mired in layers of festering secrets.
So Fiona embarks on a new course of education, one that will teach her, her host family and the entire community of Paradise Falls the importance of love, family and forgiveness. At the heart of this book stand the characters, well crafted and true to life. Fiona, wise beyond her years, shines as a well-rounded, levelheaded heroine. The feuding brothers Grayson and Fleming Haydn play out their sibling rivalry with vivid and tragic intensity. Each character, from the bitter matriarch Rose Haydn to the humble student Will VanderSleet, stands out as finely drawn and fully realized. These are characters you root for, feel sorry for, and love to hate. But most of all you want to read more.
The story of Fiona's path from grief to love, of the Hayden family's shift from lies to truth, unfolds surely in the book. From the characterization to the plot, I found little to fault. My only criticism stems from Langan's insistence that Fiona not exit or walk out of a room. Instead, Fiona "danced" from one place to another. Rather unlikely considering the strict church-going atmosphere of the Haydn household.
One unfortunate verb choice does not a failure make, however, and the merits of this book far outweigh one fault. Langan delivers a delightful book about the human struggle to look beyond past mistakes and grief to a brighter future among those we love.
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