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start day rightI received this lovely note yesterday:

Hi Maryanne — I met you at my book club meeting a couple weeks ago. Just wanted to write and tell you that you inspired me to read Alice Munro. I’ve been reading a story every morning — and it kinda makes my day.   –Suzanne

That note made my day, and reminded me that I often like to start the day with a poem. Or a couple of eggs in Paris….


One day, I took a ride out to the Quabbin Reservoir and got stuck behind an antique maroon Ford, which seemed cool and odd. A maroon Ford makes an appearance in the pages of CASCADE. When I think of old cars, I don’t automatically think maroon, but there it was, and I was behind it for quite a few miles. (I’d made the car maroon in the book because I am always trying to make my details vivid, concrete. But really, when I think of old cars, I think black.)

Much later, after I’d finished writing the book, and my wonderful agent sold it, Penguin’s art department was working on designing the cover. They originally thought it would be good to use old postcards in the design. They had acquired some old cards randomly, off of eBay, etc. When I saw this one, with the maroon car, I thought, “Wow, cool coincidence.” But what they’d sent me wasn’t the whole postcard—it was just the photo. The “Greetings from” part cropped out.

A month or so later, when we were deciding on art for the inside pages, I asked about that maroon car photo. It represented how I imagined Cascade. At that point, Penguin sent the whole card, and that was when I saw that the photo was from Belchertown, MA.

The Quabbin Reservoir’s legal address is Belchertown, MA.

There’s not much of a point to all this, except to shiver a bit.

“YOU’RE GETTING A BOOK” — My List for Holiday Giving

I read a lot of books. I love a lot of books. I love receiving books as gifts. And this year, the experience of publishing my own book has provided me with an enormous and unexpected gift: I’ve connected with so many wonderful, fascinating, funny, supportive, & overwhelmingly generous fellow writers. All of the books on the list below are worthy, good reads, and will appeal to a broad swath of people. Do your friends and family really need that desk organizer, that vanilla candle, that cambray shirt? No, of course not. But what home and heart isn’t warmed by the presence of a book?

Let me say this about what’s it been like to publish a labor of love: There’s nothing like it. All through my twenties and early thirties, I worked at soul-squelching corporate writing jobs. During this time, I saw my father die at 59. Then a cerebral aneurysm took my husband’s brother with a single morning headache as warning. Willie was 29 and smitten with his one-year old-daughter, his lovely, pregnant wife, and the son he would never meet. Finally, we saw our only child diagnosed, on her second birthday, with cystic fibrosis, a devastating genetic lung disease. We listened as a team of pulmonologists at Boston’s Children’s Hospital told us they honestly could not provide us with a prognosis. “She might live to see 30,” they said, “or she could be gone by Christmas.”  (She’s been a cat with 9 lives–yes, she is still with us.)

What all that taught me, which I was so grateful to learn at that early age, was that life matters, art matters, doing/being matters. I will never write a bad review of any book, or dismiss a painting or a song or a play, because I am just so grateful for the fact that there are people out there who want to create art.

Thanks to everyone who advised, tweeted, mentioned, applauded, purchased, reviewed, and read my book as I jumped into novel publishing with CASCADE. (If I somehow missed you, please forgive me.)


When I was a kid, I liked nothing better than sitting down with a new book of stories.
I would skim the Table of Contents and decide which title appealed most.
I urge you to do the same–who knows what surprise you might find?

Fobbitt, by David Abrams

Veronica’s Nap, by Sharon Bially

The Unfinished Life of Elizabeth B, by Nichole Bernier

Crash, by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein

The River Witch, by Kimberly Brock

The Exceptionals, by Erin Cashman

Echolocation, by Myfanwy Collins

The Foremost Good Fortune, by Susan Conley

The Quilt Walk, by Sandra Dallas

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, by Matthew Dicks

The Lake of Dreams, Kim Edwards

The Age of Desire, by Jennie Fields

The Liar’s Diary, by Patry Francis

City of Women, by David Gillham

The Singles, by Meredith Goldstein

Seascape, by Lynne Griffin

Come to the Edge, by Christina Haag

Alice Bliss, by Laura Harrington

Rex and the City, by Lee Harrington

The Whipping Club, by Deborah Henry

Visions of a Wayne Childhood, by DeWitt Henry

Blackberry Winter, by Sarah Jio

Night Swim, by Jessica Keener

The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kenison

Father of the Rain, by Lily King

Friendkeeping, by Julie Klam

The Collective, by Don Lee

Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt

Jesse, by Marianne Leone

The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey

The Baker’s Daughter, by Sarah McCoy

The Murderer’s Daughters, by Randy Susan Meyers

A Good Hard Look, by Ann Napolitano

Deadbeat, by Jay Baron Nicorvo

Cascade, by Maryanne O’Hara

Wouldn’t You Like to Know, by Pamela Painter

Best American Short Stories, edited by Heidi Pitlor

Hemingway’s Girl, by Erika Robuck

Double Time, by Jane Roper

Oleanna, by Julie Rose

The Book of Lost Fragrances, by MJ Rose

The Salt God’s Daughter, by Ilie Ruby

The Art Forger, by BA Shapiro

The Pretty Girl, by Debra Spark

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Game of Secrets, by Dawn Tripp

Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland

Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, by Kate Whouley

The Probability of Miracles, by Wendy Wunder




NYC, 1938. Street Scene

61st Street between 1st and 3rd Avenues.
I liked the quirky, old-fashioned quality of the name “Brilliant Lunch Bar,” and used it for Cascade.

Walker Evans photo, public domain, courtesy of Library of Congress.


Part 1 of Cascade takes place in 1935, when dust storms were devastating the Great Plains states, and adding to the general worry everywhere that the United States was falling apart.

Public domain photo courtesy of:
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.


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