Niagara Falls, 1950, is the “honeymoon capital” of America for happy newlyweds, and miserable ones, too. Mrs. Ariah Erskine was married less than twenty-four hours when her husband, Reverend Gilbert Erskine, threw himself into the Falls after one night of wedded agony. Stunned, Ariah stands waiting for the body to be recovered. She is guarded by Dirk Burnaby, lawyer friend of the worried hotel owner, who finds himself intrigued by the “Widow Bride of the Falls.” After identifying the twisted body of her husband, Ariah collapses into Dirk’s arms. Less than a month later, the confirmed bachelor marries this “doomed figure in a Wagner opera,” despite religious objections from her parents and social objections from his formidable mother. Love gives them four children, and Dirk’s hard work makes them rich. Until a woman in black asks Dirk’s legal help to fight the physical devastation in her neighborhood, an area dubbed “Love Canal.” Obsessed with justice, Dirk risks all to fight the “depraved indifference” of the chemical companies, the boast of Niagara City citizens. He dares to “go outside the family” to help “the others,” and it seals his doom.
The Falls is a compelling and complex story of a family conflict in which a mother loves so much yet hates so deeply, she screens her children from her past by erasing their heritage. Yet children must pursue the truth; they need its redemption. Ms. Oates is an incredible storyteller giving us characters so real, so human, we know them beyond the printed page.