Have you ever read a book where one of the characters hits too close to home, reminds you of a relative or (even worse) yourself & you just have to cringe every time you read about that person in the book? The Falls had a character like that in it for me. I'm not going to say which one it was, but it was damn hard reading about this person because I wasn't sure if I liked or hated them. And I suppose that having those feelings is a sign of very good writing.
The story starts in 1950 at Niagara Falls. Married for barely 12 hours, a young man is running toward the Falls, to throw himself in. You hope that he will be stopped by someone, anyone. Maybe the man who takes tickets on the footbridge to Goat Island. But no one stops him. No one is able to. He succeeds in killing himself, & scaring his wife for the rest of her life.
The Falls is about this woman, but it's mostly about the Falls themselves & the city that encompasses them. Through her story I learned more about the city of Niagara Falls than I'd thought possible. Did you know that the Love Canal was in this city? I thought it was in Buffalo for some reason. And did you know that the people that work in the tourist trade at the Falls are discouraged from telling visitors how many people have killed themselves there?
The story of this woman & her second husband & the family they make together is a history of Niagara Falls, both the city & natural phenomenon. I really want to visit the Falls now, though I also am a little afraid to. The siren song of the water, as described by Joyce Carol Oates, holds out fascination & fear to me, even from afar.