Hopes, David Brendan. “The Falls of the Wyona”, Red Hen Press, 2019.
Growing Up in Appalachia
Friends growing up in Appalachia right after WWII face their growing maturity in David Brendan Hopes’ “The Falls of Wyona.” We meet friends growing up on the banks of a wild Appalachian river just after WWII who discover, almost at the same time, the dangerous yet alluring Falls along with their own maturing hearts. The story comes to us from Arden, childhood friend of Vince, a football hero who falls in love with Glen, the new kid. However, they do not have the ability to understand feelings and they are facing high school after a great war in a world that has been forever changed. It was a time when friendship was just that with no sexual connotations in beautiful Appalachia where peaceful living seemed to be the rule.
Yet we get a sense that something is not quite right and something that should not happen there does. I have had my own adventures in locales like Appalachia and I know that disturbing the status quo is difficult and when it happens, changes abound. Link that to adolescence and the fears and the pleasures that come with it and we have a story. I understand that this is the first of three novels set in Appalachia.
There is a tense feeling beneath the beautiful prose and it is as if we don’t really know what we think we know. This could be because the story of Vince and Glen is told by a third character, Arden who sees from the nostalgic perspective of looking back on his youth with fond nostalgia, forgetting the racism, homophobia and sexism of the time. It is important to realize this because of what happens in the story but if I share that here there would be no point in reading the novel. We are surely all aware that nostalgia certainly colors the ways we see things in retrospect. On the other hand it is important to remember things as they were to better understand the way they are. To be able to do so while reading a novel that is beautifully written like “The Falls of Wyona” is a special treat.