My review: 4 of 5 stars
Slow and rich like molasses, this is a read to savor. While the plot might have benefitted from more suspense and drama and the ending left me wanting, I enjoyed the language and the scenery of Above the Waterfall. Alternating between the sheriff’s point of view and that of the park ranger, Above the Waterfall reveals both the majesty of the Appalachian mountains and the hidden despair created by meth. The park ranger, Becky, lends a poetic, lyrical voice while the sheriff speaks and thinks in more practical terms. Both views help create a complete picture of life in small town Appalachia.
The sheriff’s experiences dealing with the locals and the meth trade felt authentic most of the time. In particular, the scene at the meth house, about midway through the book, was so deftly drawn that I felt the tension and nearly smelled the odors. The attention to detail in that scene brought it to life in Technicolor.
The main characters, Les and Becky, don’t interact much, but clearly have a relationship. Flawless transitions into the memories of both characters elicit understanding of who they are and what motivates them and holds them back. Still, I kept waiting for Becky to play a bigger part in the story. Her main role ended up being to provide the more sentimental point of view. Important, yes, but she had the potential for more.
What I appreciated most about Above the Waterfall was the atmosphere and the lyricism. The metaphors and imagery were carefully chosen to reflect Appalachia. Sometimes the author includes poetry, but even when he was writing prose, it felt poetic.
*Please note, an advance reading copy was provided to me through my subscription to the Powell’s Indiespensable program.