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Too Close to the Falls: A Memoir [Paperback]

Catherine Gildiner
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 18.95
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1999

Heartbreaking and wicked: a memoir of  stunning beauty and remarkable grace. Improbable friendships and brushes with death. A schoolgirl affecting the course of aboriginal politics. Elvis and cocktails and Catholicism and the secrets buried deep beneath a place that may be another, undiscovered Love Canal – Lewiston, New York. Too Close to the Falls is an exquisite, haunting return, through time and memory, to the heart of Catherine Gildiner’s childhood.

And what a childhood it was …


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Now a successful clinical psychologist with a monthly advice column in the popular Canadian magazine Chatelaine, Gildiner tells of her childhood in 1950s Lewiston, N.Y., a small town near Niagara Falls, in this hilarious and moving coming-of-age memoir. Deemed hyperactive by the town's pediatrician, at age four Gildiner was put to work at her father's pharmacy in an effort to harness her energy. Her stories of delivering prescriptions with her father's black deliveryman, Roy, are the most affecting parts of this book, with young Cathy serving as map reader for the illiterate but streetwise fellow, who acted as both protector and fellow adventurer. In a style reminiscent of the late Jean Shepherd, Gildiner tells her tales with a sharp humor that rarely misses a beat and underscores the dark side of what at first seems a Norman Rockwell existence. Mired in a land dispute, the local Native American population has a chief who requires sedatives to subdue his violent moods. Meanwhile, the feared "monster" who maintains the town dump is simply afflicted with "Elephant Man" syndrome. And Cathy's mother--with her intellectual preoccupations and aversion to housework and visiting neighbors--is an emblem of prefeminist frustration. The book's vaunted celebrity dish--Gildiner delivered sleeping pills to Marilyn Monroe on the set of Niagara--pales in comparison to such ordinary adult pathos. By book's end, Cathy, too, gets her share, as beloved Roy mysteriously exits and an entanglement with a confused young priest brings her literally and figuratively "too close to the falls."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Clinical psychologist Gildiner's well-crafted memoir describes her 1950s childhood in Lewiston, "a small town in western New York, a few miles north of Niagara Falls." Hers was no ordinary childhood but that of a precocious, headstrong, and intelligent girl whose parents provided a uniquely unconventional upbringing. Because of her lively temperament, her pediatrician recommended to her older and devoutly Catholic parents that she work in her father's pharmacy to channel her energies. Thus, at the age of four, she was teamed with a black male employee to deliver prescription drugs when not in school. She had a wide range of experiences with her co-worker, stopping in bars and making deliveries to both the wealthiest and the poorest members of the community. In each eventful chapter, Gildiner focuses on a particular adult who strongly influenced her understanding of the world. Often dangerous, her experiences, as related here, are also amusing, charming, and relevant. Highly recommended.DSue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been splendid Dec 3 2000
Format:Paperback
Here is a memoir that deserved far more care in editing than it received. As a result, the misspellings and anachronisms seriously detract from the pleasure of reading about one of the most eccentric families ever. As the overactive only child of two truly fascinating people, Catherine Gildiner started working in her father's pharmacy at the age of four. Her adventures with customers and with her peers, but most especially with her parents are told with great good humor and kindness. Unfortunately, the problems mentioned above get in the way so badly that it made for tedious, sometimes maddening reading of what would, with judicious editing, have been a wonderful autobiographical piece. Just to cite two examples: the Jackie Gleason show aired on Saturday nights, not on Fridays. And the spelling of famous names often varies within a single paragraph.
Unfortunate, too, are the last few chapters. They come as a letdown to an otherwise thoroughly engaging memoir. Ms. Gildiner deserved far better treatment. One can only hope that her next publisher/next editor will do the job right.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, lively, enchanting memoir May 22 2001
Format:Paperback
A beautifully written memoir - my mother recommended it to me, that's always a plus. The author really made me feel connected to her, and women/girls growing up in general. Although my childhood was completely different (on the surface), I could completely identify with the feelings and experiences Gildiner describes. Too Close to the Falls is one of those archetypal stories that describes a life that we've all lived to some extent. Message to the author: PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL!
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5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE VERY BEST March 22 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
One of the very best memoirs I have ever read and I specialize in girlhood memoirs. Born in the same year as the author, I very much enjoyed her recollections of how it was to grow up female in the early fifties. However the writer's childhood was undoubtedly more eccentric and adventurous than mine and probably most of our contemporaries. Her recounting of the wonderful and unique characters she encountered and how they shaped her perceptions of life is both hilarious and deeply affecting. I am truly grateful that she has brought them into my life to entertain and educate me as well. This book ends as she begins her teen years. Should she write a sequel, and I fervently hope she will, I will be first in line to buy it. This book is quite simply a remarkable reading experience!
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4.0 out of 5 stars From a fellow Lewistonian... Jan. 7 2002
Format:Paperback
I grew up in Lewiston 20 years after Ms. Gildiner (in the same neighborhood, I believe) and really enjoyed her book. She did a great job at capturing the essence of the place... small town charm filled with careless (dangerous) adventures in the gorge and river plus an assortment of oddball characters. I make it a point to visit at least once a year. The only problem I had was that she seemed to stretch her facts a bit at times. Catherine, did you really ride your sled from the power project cliffs to the Riverside Inn? I need some clarification on that one.
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This magical book came into my hands from two separate sources (in the same week--go figure) and has been shared with others since. One friend claims it completely changed her life and promptly went out, bought another 3 copies and passed them along to her friends. If you've ever felt that somehow you were an odd kid, this charming and insightful book is a great way to see challenges strengthen and enhance a woman's character, probably much like it did yours. I want a sequel.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia July 4 2001
Format:Paperback
I grew up in Lewiston, which during my childhood was a small, sleepy village where my father was mayor for four terms (He ran on both tickets!) Tho I left a few years before this book, I recognized names and places the author mentioned.
My Catholic school education differed from hers, as I went to a different school but am enthralled with her changes, both as a Catholic and a person.
I had heard only sketchy stories about the take over of the Tuscarora land and was incensed when I read her account.
I'm almost finished with it, and I hate to get to the last page. At some point, I'm sure I'll reread it and digest more.
Good book! Excellent storytelling!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid memories, exciting times June 1 2000
Format:Paperback
Shades of Russell Baker's Growing Up--thank goodness for writers like Dr. Gildiner who with such enormous talent bring us back to relive the joys, tears, injustices, delights of childhood--her writing brought me closer to my kids as she refreshed my understanding of how people learn about life and love--I'm waiting for volume II please.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Angela's Ashes April 17 2000
Format:Paperback
This book has the same ring of authenticity that made Angela's Ashes such an overwhelming popular success. And the author has the same rare ability to remember and still see her past through the eyes of a child. This precocious and funny book is excellent and will stay with you for a long time.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I have given this book away so many times. It is a rare gem.
Published 1 month ago by Northern Exposure
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved the book until the end. Wish it had ended differently
Published 1 month ago by R. Tannahill
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing story
This was an amazing story, just unbelievable, the girl was so smart and old for her age, and the way her parents were bringing her up was so different, especially for the times, I... Read more
Published 5 months ago by dorothy bain
5.0 out of 5 stars Too funny!
I grew up in central NYS at about the same time as Catherine, so the setting is familiar, the characters and stories touching and hilarious. Read more
Published 9 months ago by HHWEN Reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This was a skillfully crafted memoir describing a highly unusual childhood, yet with plenty of moments that the reader can relate to personally.
Published 22 months ago by Clare Wiggill
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Memoir
This is an excellent, funny, intelligent memoir that captures a time, and a family perfectly. What I appreciate most in a memoir is the element of truth -- not so much truth as in... Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2011 by onlygoodbooksplease
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Find
I suppose we all have the memories within ourselves which would enable us to write an autobiography, but few persons manage to put pen to paper and create a book such as "Too Close... Read more
Published on Dec 19 2009 by W. R., Vanderburgh
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls short
Too Close to the Falls is supposed to be a true story; it comes off as surreal bio that strains credulity. Read more
Published on Dec 18 2009 by Kenneth Deluca
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable read, randomly read over certain chapters
this book is great. but i enjoy it by the chapters, there are ones i have read and re red numerus times while there are others i havent finished likely or only read once. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2008 by Scott M. Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant, thoughtful
I loved this book. A friend recommended it, knowing I grew up in the east and went to parochial school. Read more
Published on March 15 2002
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