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Too Close to the Falls: A Memoir Paperback – Oct 1 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press; Ill edition (Oct. 1 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550223968
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550223965
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen on 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 By A Customer on March 22 2001
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By book-clubber on 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Henning on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. R., Vanderburgh on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Deluca on Dec 18 2009
Format: Paperback
Too Close to the Falls is supposed to be a true story; it comes off as surreal bio that strains credulity. I purchased Catherine Gildiner's book and her sequel after hearing her being interviewed on CBC radio. In that delightful interview she spoke of times in her life covered in both books. She is an excellent, humourous oral racconteur. Alas, her speaking skills do not translate as well to the written page. It is a good read, to be sure and it easily passed my test of interest, reading uninterupted by other books' attention.

The fault I find is her attempt to capture the innocent's POV so many years later while relating details which would have had little meaning to a child but which the author must explain to make the story meaningful.

The author is of my generation and the references she makes ring true. But that they were experienced by one so young ( age four to eight for much of the tale ) is difficult to imagine. The nub of her story is her early bestriding of the child/adult worlds enabled by her unconventional parents. Her mother in particular stands out as a work of fancy rather than reality. She strikes me as tragi-comical, a combination of Blanche Dubois and June Cleaver.

The sequel should prove easier to accept, as Catherine's life as teenager should be free of the aforementioned drawbacks.
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