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Fall On Your Knees – Book Review

  You might cross this road and walk a few steps to the edge of the cliff. Down below is the jagged water. All day it chatters back and forth across the gravel beach, unless the weather’s rough. Farther out it’s mauve like a pair of cold lips; closer in it’s copper green, gun gray, seducing seaweed to dance the seven veils despite the chill, chained to their rocks by the hair. And there on the cliff you might sit with your legs dangling even on a flinty winter day, and feel soothed by the salt wind. – From Fall On Your Knees, page 27-

Ann-Marie MacDonalds multigenerational family saga Fall On Your Knees captures the reader from the start with a finely tuned sense of place and characters who fill the page. The story begins with James Piper, a native of Cape Breton Island, and Materia, his tragic Lebanese child-bride. One by one, children are born to the Pipers – each with distinct and compelling personalities. MacDonald takes her time, gradually revealing the dark shadows beneath the surface of this family.

Some of my favorite parts of the novel consisted of the careful construction of character and the beautiful and horrible imagery.

A war changes people in a number of ways. It either shortcuts you to your very self; or it triggers such variations that you might as well have been a larva, pupating in dampness, darkness and tightly wrapped puttees. Then, providing you don’t take flight from a burst shell, you emerge from your khaki cocoon so changed from what you were that you fear you’ve gone mad, because people at home treat you as though you were someone else. Someone, who, through a bizarre coincidence, had the same name, address and blood ties as you, but who must have died in the war. -From Fall On Your Knees, page 112-

This book is full of tragedy, and yet MacDonald tempers it with a sardonic humor and accessible prose that compels the reader to keep turning the pages. My favorite character is Frances – the imaginative second child of the Pipers who has a biting wit and a gift for words.

You might think Frances would be a slob, but she isn’t, she’s very neat and organized. She has accommodated Lily with a framed magazine photograph of Mary Pickford in a stupid gingham apron. It hangs next to Lily’s color print of Jesus with the lambs. Jesus looks sad, of course, “because he’s thinking about how much he likes lamb chops,” says Frances, but Lily is not fooled by that . The rest of the walls are covered in Frances’ collection. She writes away for publicity photos. There is one of Lillian Gish trapped on an ice floe. There is Houdini naked and furious in a milk can. There is an actual poster that an usher at the Empire gave her of Theda Bara in Sin, holding her unbelievably long tresses at arm’s length above her head like a madwoman. Frances calls her Head of Haira. Mercedes thinks the picture is immoral. -From Fall On Your Knees, page 192-

Fall On Your Knees is a magnificent, sprawling novel of family secrets, religious obsession, and survival. It resonates with unforgettable characters.

Recommended.

11 Comments

  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 28, 2007    

    Awesome! This one has been sitting on my shelf for a very long time (it seems like it anyway). I’m glad you liked it, and you make it sound really interesting. I’ll have to crack this one soon.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 29, 2007    

    I really need to read this one again someday. I read it a few years ago and really liked it though I’ve forgotten most of the details now. The Way the Crow Flies was one of my top reads of last year. I wonder when she’ll have a new one out?

  3. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 29, 2007    

    I guess I had better add this one to my wish list officially! It does sound good, and I absolutely loved The Way the Crow Flies. Thanks the great review, Wendy.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 30, 2007    

    Kookie, I read this one for a book group read, and I’m so glad. I hope you like it as much as I did 🙂

  5. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 30, 2007    

    She does such a great job with characterization. I have The Way The Crow Flies on my TBR stack and need to move it up in the pile! I will definitely read her next book 🙂

  6. Anonymous Anonymous
    April 30, 2007    

    I remember reading your review on The Way the Crow Flies – and that was one of the reasons I decided to pick this one up and read it for a book group (even though it was very chunky and I didn’t really have the time to read it *grins*). I think you’ll like it!

  7. Anonymous Anonymous
    May 1, 2007    

    I read “Fall On Your Knees” on a trip to Australia a few years back. It was an Oprah Book Club selection and I thought it was going to be easy going. I was awe by the lush, gothic power the book possessed and I became an instant fan. “The Way the Crow Flies” was also spectacular. Disturbing and sad.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous
    May 3, 2007    

    Great review. When I reviewed it I decided to pick one of two quotes. The one I didn’t pick is the one on the effects of war that you used. It is a very meaningful bit of writing. Nice to read another assessment on soemthing I just read.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous
    May 3, 2007    

    I loved both Fall on Your Knees and The Way the Crow Flies. I wish she would hurry up and write a new book, I can hardly wait!
    Teddy

  10. Anonymous Anonymous
    July 2, 2007    

    I read this one for Bookworms Reading Group also, but I finished it the last day of May (had just joined). I really enjoyed this one…and so far its in my top 5 reads for the year. Nice review!

  11. Anonymous Anonymous
    July 3, 2007    

    Thanks, Trish 🙂

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