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Arcadia Falls    by Carol Goodman order for
Arcadia Falls
by Carol Goodman
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Ballantine, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As Arcadia Falls opens, Meg Rosenthal, still grieving - and still struggling with anger - over her husband Jeb's death by heart attack, is driving with her daughter Sally to a private art boarding school in Arcadia Falls, upstate New York. There Meg will teach folklore and Sally will study art. Meg recalls lines from a favorite story, The Changeling Girl, as she heads through haunted woods towards the place where the story's author, Lily Eberhardt, once practiced her art, lived a bohemian life, and died mysteriously.

Sally is unhappy about the move (necessitated by their financial situation) and takes it out on her mother, quickly arranging to stay at the school instead of residing with Meg in Fleur-de-Lis cottage (Lily Eberhardt's old home) on the campus grounds. Meg meets Dean Ivy St. Clare, who had herself been one of the first scholarship students at the school. She also bumps into town sheriff Callum Reade.

Meg finds Lily's journal in the cottage and starts reading it, leading to many surprising revelations about life - and a love triangle involving both a lesbian and heterosexual relationship - in the artists' commune before the founding of the school. Then a talented student, Isabel Cheney, dies at the annual First Night bonfire celebration in a manner reminiscent of the death of Lily Eberhardt. As Meg continues reading the journal, she finds links to a Catholic orphanage and more than one Arcadia faculty member obsessed with the past.

There are more deaths before the truth is out, and Meg and Sally are finally able to come home. Though there is a mystery at its heart and echoes of romance throughout, Carol Goodman's Arcadia Falls is also a beautifully written and ultimately satisfying account of grief and obsession, art and motherhood, loss and recovery from loss.

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