Arcadia Falls

Arcadia Falls - Carol Goodman "Arcadia Falls" begins in a similar manner to Carol Goodman's works like "The Lake of Dead Languages" and "The Drowning Tree." It is told from the perspective of Meg Rosenthal, who moves to Arcadia Falls to take a teaching position at a boarding school to teach a folklore class (and like a few of Goodman's other heroines, she's basically ABD - all but dissertation). While there are some elements that are similar to Goodman's other works, what comes through the resulting story is a complex series of secrets and misunderstandings surrounding the creators of the boarding school at which Meg works. Meg finds herself and her teenage daughter caught right in the middle of the web of such events. With the help of the local sheriff Callum Reade, Meg has to pull at these threads to uncover the truth of what happened in the past, and understand the mysterious deaths that not only occurred in the past, but threaten the fabric of the school she teaches in present terms.My personal reaction to the book is a mixed bag. It begins with a consistent spectrum that I've come to expect from Goodman's previous novels. Very strong prose, strong mythic/fairy tale links to events, and a way of building the events along to where each thread starts falling into place in an extended mystery/suspense with artistic flare. The interactions among the characters are clearly defined and well-placed. My praises for the work could be best summed up that way.Yet, there's a catch. I think if you like those elements and follow the story for what it offers in that way, you might like it - if you're willing to suspend disbelief at the way the book concludes. I disliked how rushed and unbelievable the ending was of this book - immensely disappointed, and I hate saying that because I've enjoyed just about every book I've read from Goodman thus far. I didn't like the fact that three characters were killed in almost the exact same way. I didn't like that Goodman prolonged the end of the story by throwing revelations every which way about the families involved in this tale of mistaken identities, betrayals, and misunderstood events (the setup was excellent, the wrap up was not very realistic or good at all), and somehow decided it would go the route of prolonging this drama to place Meg, Callum, and Sally in situations that unnecessarily placed them in trouble when really it could have been avoided. I felt cheated by the ending particularly when the story (while it took a bit to tell the backing of events and the character histories - I didn't mind that much because I've come to expect that from her, and she usually does it well for her style of writing) had such a good setup for a good 2/3 of the book. The character relationships/dynamics are strong (romantic relationships included, though they accent the work) for the most part, though I did find times when the characters dipped into cliche territory (Sally's a typical teen with typical rebellious stereotyping - I think her rationale could have been shown a little more to make it less one-sided, and not paint Meg as insecure as she comes across at times). Meg's a good lead to follow, but as I mentioned, there are times when the presentation of her character doesn't come across as strongly due to plot elements, especially toward the end.I would have normally rated this 2.5 stars, but I have to give an extra half star to the narrator of the audiobook, Jen Taylor. I thought she did a well enough job to vary the dynamic of her voices to match the characters in the story. For some, it may take some getting used to her intonations. For me, I adjusted to her voices and throughout the work, I found them well progressed and dynamic. It did genuinely make me smile when I heard her voice for Ivy - she made the woman sound about as sharp and shrill as she was characterized, and Taylor's voicing of the teenage girls, including Sally, seemed right on point.Overall, I'd probably read/listen to this again, but I would not rank it as highly as "The Seduction of Water" or "The Lake of Dead Languages." I would even note that "Arcadia Falls" does not quite have the appeal of "The Drowning Tree" in spurts, but it has its moments along the journey, and I can't say that I didn't enjoy it for what it was worth. Overall: 3/5