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Too Close to the Falls: A Memoir [Paperback]

Catherine Gildiner
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 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 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 amazing story March 28 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 loved it, and have passed it on to others, they have all enjoyed it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Too funny! Nov. 22 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. It is a treat for the child in all of us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read Nov. 23 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a skillfully crafted memoir describing a highly unusual childhood, yet with plenty of moments that the reader can relate to personally.
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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 Wonderful Memoir Aug. 3 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 the facts, but in the telling. Incredibly enjoyable and well-written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Find Dec 19 2009
Format:Paperback
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 To The Falls: A Memoir". I was captivated from the very first chapter and was most disappointed when I reached the end. As a result I went back and reread certain chapters. One of my favourites was the one about the arrival of the television. I could imagine peeking into the living room watching Catherine decorating her TV (shrine?) with packs of Camel cigarettes in time for John Cameron Swayze's nightly visit with his "Camel Caravan". It was fascinating to read of her early years with her off-beat family. She had so much energy that she burned if off by working at her father's Drug Store tarting at 4 years of age. How she and Roy became a team is a great story in itself.

I grew up in Toronto not too far from Lewiston (and Niagara) as the crow flies, during the same time period. Reading her book triggered many similar memories of my youth. As an example, I remember visiting Niagara Falls while some outdoor pieces of the movie set used in "Niagara" were still in place (the motel). I'm glad she has such a good memory.

I heard Catherine being interview on CBC radio. After the interview I ordered a copy of both her biographical books from Amazon. I was not disappointed.

Ron Vanderburgh
Shallow Lake, Ontario
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