BOOK CLUB: ‘Over the Falls’ stresses the emotion in its rollercoaster journey

Abigail Celoria, Assistant Culture Editor

The Seahawk’s January book club pick “Over the Falls” is the perfect book to cozy up with this cold month. If you are looking for an adventure-mystery-drama with a hard-hitting emotional center, “Over the Falls” is for you. A slightly disorganized but beautiful novel, its centrality on emotional ties—both those we harbor in anger and those we form in love—is its greatest strength.

North Carolina native Rebecca Hodge follows up her debut novel “Wildland,” a winner of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award, with this exciting narrative set in the mountain ranges of Tennessee and Colorado. Both “Wildland” and “Over the Falls” share the theme of exploration, specifically in the seclusion of nature. Where “Over the Falls” differs, though, is in the long and continually complicated journey its protagonists take to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding a missing person close to them both.

The front cover of Over The Falls by Rebecca Hodge. (

Bryn Collins, the main protagonist, lives a life of seclusion in the Tennessee mountain range after a devastating betrayal left her to retreat from the outside world. However, she must confront the past again when the result of that betrayal shows up at her doorstep. Her nephew Josh, the love child between her ex-fiancé Sawyer and her swaggering sister Del, arrives in need of help in locating his missing mother. Bryn initially writes it off as Del’s usual brand of irresponsibility, but the stakes increase when a threatening figure from their past appears in search for her sister. Bryn and Josh must take action to find Del before the dangerous drug dealer Carl does. However, the adventure does not turn out to be as straightforward as they initially believed. Leads take their search on to Colorado, where more of Bryn’s past resurfaces.

It is unlikely readers will expect where “Over the Falls” is headed with what they are first introduced to. The novel’s opening gives a more peaceful image of Bryn’s life before the chaos of the plot ensues, a glimpse into her hard-won new ordinary. Of course, only pages in, she is ripped out of it when Josh arrives on the homestead. His appearance at first seems to add more emotional weight to the story, inclining toward a more drama-based structure. Her sister’s betrayal takes literal form in her son, who brings up a lot of the suppressed past for Bryn. For most novels, this slow-building hook would not be a wise choice, but for “Over the Falls,” it works to establish the core of the story before dropping the reader into the adventure to follow.

Hodge skillfully presents this emotional conflict first before introducing Carl and his vague threats in the fourth chapter. It takes thirty-nine pages for the mystery aspect to begin to unfold, which is preferable as this seemingly normal situation spirals beyond any reader’s initial suspicion. The novel is chock full of plot twists, but Hodge manages the pacing to build them up naturally. She achieves this mainly by providing the proper setup for each escalation. Many authors make the mistake of revealing too little to preserve the surprise, only for this to leave their readers confused. In “Over the Falls,” though, Hodge provides hints along the way to each big reveal. This makes the twists more predictable, but also more effective. For such a wild adventure, each piece in the mystery fits naturally into place.

Hodge also makes a smart choice in the scope of the mystery, always bringing each new discovery back to the main conflict of Sawyer’s and Del’s affair and subsequent marriage. The past affects events internally in Bryn as well as externally, through her connection to Carl dating back to the fateful night that intertwined them, Sawyer and Del forever. These conflicts carry into the present in multiple forms, continuing to disrupt Bryn’s life and now Josh’s. The novel stands strong on this tight foundation.

However, where “Over the Falls” struggles the most is the tie-in to Carl’s drug business. The character’s threatening nature and sudden appearances often feel out of place with the novel’s adventurous, emotional tone. His role is initially clear in providing stakes for Bryn and Josh, having a deadline by which to find Del, but it is not until his tie-in on the emotional level is brought in that his presence becomes more natural. Josh’s emotional conflict with Carl is the source of tension that truly anchors Del’s drug use plotline. As Josh learns more and more about his mother’s predicament with Carl, he harbors equal guilt about their reconnection. Seeing Carl through Josh’s perspective allows him to blend better along the way.

This is the one area in which “Over the Falls” struggles, but again Hodge’s instinct to bring it back to the narrative’s emotional foundation softens any negative impact. The emotional center is what distinguishes “Over the Falls” from other novels, allowing readers an intelligent and introspective look into two characters who, by the end of the novel, have become real. The ending does not necessarily resolve every heartache, but it does its job in wrapping up the narrative and giving a glimmer of hope for Bryn and Josh’s combined future.

“Over the Falls” finds its most narrative value in these characters and the lessons they learn. Any good book’s aim is to get its readers invested in the protagonists, and “Over the Falls” has no trouble with this. While complex, Bryn and Josh are likable, and readers root for their success. Bryn struggles with her complicated feelings toward Sawyer and Del and ultimately finds some relief, putting them to rest by the novel’s end.

The outcome is not as hopeful for Josh, but he finds a new close relationship with his aunt and discovers his personal strength. Readers of any age are likely to connect with these characters, as the things they learn throughout their journey are not confined to one generation. Learning how to come to terms with both past and present is something that anyone can resonate with.

A novel based on found family and emotional reconciliation, ”Over the Falls” will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy by the end of the journey.