Lost towns, discovered stories

My familiarity with New York Times best-selling author Caroline Leavitt is mainly through her occasional book reviews in the Boston Sunday Globe. I never fail to be impressed and charmed by her short takes on books in the self-help genre, such as her reviews of this fantastic book about the weather, as well as this kicky tome about getting and staying on top of life’s everyday travails.

And her review in today’s Globe is no exception to the pattern of wanting to read everything she reviews and recommends. I’m particularly interested this time, however, because the setting of the novel in question is near my hometown of Barre, Mass.

Cascade,” according to Leavitt, “grapples with small town limitations vs. big city sparkle … against the eerie backdrop of 1930s Cascade, Mass., a town about to be flooded to make way for a reservoir.”

Historical information of about the Quabbin Reservoir is easy to come by, but I’ve always believed the nearly 75-year-old public works project contains a rich trove of material for historical fiction. Seeing one’s bucolic hometown wiped off the map to provide potable water to big-city dwellers more than 100 miles away is bound to stir up at least a modicum of conflict, to say the least. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never taken even the slightest step toward writing about the Quabbin and its effect on the residents of the forgotten towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott. But, luckily, Maryanne O’Hara has and, as usual, I have Caroline Leavitt to thank for the 411.

UPDATE, Aug. 20: Oof! I can’t believe I totally glossed over this novel by former Massachusetts Gov. (and not-quite-Ambassador to Mexico) William F. Weld! Thanks to former up-the-street neighbor Heidi (Bolger) Johnson for the heads up. (Her dad, Joe, is a genius with motorcycles and was easily the coolest guy in town, by the way.)


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