Fall on Your Knees
, award-winning actor and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald's sprawling and powerful first novel, reads like a literary soap opera, but one whose mature themes are far from the pulp and clichés of daytime television. Its episodic rises and falls have the same sort of page-turning, cliff-hanging appeal of that lesser medium. It never drags, never over-burdens the reader, and, most importantly, remains likeable and believable despite the many--and sometimes magical--twists and turns of its tale.
Fall on Your Knees tells the story of several generations of the Piper family of Cape Breton, beginning with the marriage of James Piper, the controlling, emotionally stunted son of Gaelic-speaking Scottish Canadians, and Materia Mahmoud, the 13-year-old daughter of wealthy Lebanese immigrants. Materia's father cuts her off from her family for marrying James, and James in turn forces her to deny both her heritage and her emotions. James, out of a spite even he fails to comprehend, focuses all his attention on Kathleen, his first-born and a musical prodigy. He dotes on her and sends her away to study opera in New York. However, Kathleen's unexpected return from New York, where she has made some discoveries that will ultimately turn her father against her, becomes the centre of an intricately plotted series of tragedies involving each of the Piper sisters. In a startlingly skilful manipulation of prose, MacDonald teases out clues, secrets, and revelations that are both delightful to discover and disturbing to consider. --Jonathan Dewar
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A family pays the wages of lust in this memorable first novel, for it is most often lust that leads to unsuitable if not unholy couplings in the Piper family of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in the early part of this century. Eighteen-year-old piano tuner James Piper is so smitten with 12-year-old Materia Mahmoud that he entices her from her traditional Lebanese family to marry him. Before she's 14 the untutored Materia gives birth to Kathleen, the beautiful and gifted child whom she is unable to love but whom James takes to his heart. There are more daughters: Mercedes, the good girl who becomes the little mother; Other Lily, who dies unbaptized when one day old; Frances, the bad girl who becomes a bawdy entertainer and worse; and Kathleen's daughter, Lily, the saintly crippled girl who will learn the secrets and find resolution and redemption. Actress-playwright MacDonald is a talented storyteller with a crisp yet lilting prose style that captures equally well the atmospheres of World War I trenches and Harlem jazz clubs. Michele Leber
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