Arcadia Falls is a book to get lost in. Author Goodman takes here signature themes, women, water, and academia, and wraps them in a Russian doll of a fairy tale. But it’s a fairy tale for adults, and it’s a tautly plotted mystery as well. Having lost her husband, and most of their money along with him, Meg Rosenthal must give up grad school, where she’s been working on her thesis about folk stories, and start anew with her grieving and angry teenage daughter, Sally. Meg lands a job teaching lit at a remote girls’ school in upstate New York, which was founded originally as an art colony. Coincidentally, one of the stories she’s been studying, about a changeling, was written and illustrated by Lily Eberhardt, a co-founder of the institute. Lily set the story in Arcadia Falls, and Meg recognizes all the physical elements at once, finding herself drawn into Lily’s world. When first a student dies of a fall, and Meg finds Lily’s hidden journal, her absorption grows intense.
Few writers are capable of creating atmosphere as well as Goodman. Her imagery is so evocative that you find yourself thinking in those same images. At Arcadia Falls, those images are overwhelmingly feminine. The names of the major characters are taken from folklore and mythology. The “pagan” rituals that the students so enjoy, as at Samhain and Beltane, are meaningful and ominous. At times, certain characters find their identities becoming entwined with those long dead. This is a dreamy but fast paced novel with a jolt of a surprise right in the middle. It seems history can repeat itself. And reaching the final page is like coming home.
[Review based upon advanced reader’s copy provided by Amazon.com]