Fall on Your Knees Paperback – Aug 26 1997
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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
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
To be honest, the beginning is a little slow. It took me longer than usual to get into it. However, around page 100, I couldn't put it down. I was so intrigued by every single character. It didn't matter if I related to them or not, what mattered was that I sympathized with them and felt that I knew them. I felt as though I had grown up with the Piper children, and for days after finishing I couldn't stop thinking about Lily or Mercedes or Katherine.
There is no denying that the family is more than slightly dysfunctional. As dysfunctional as it is, it is still completely realistic. Fall on your knees is a heartbreaking story of one family. For me, as much as I wanted to hate certain characters, such as John, I couldn't because no matter how horrible he could be, you also see how amazing he could be. You LOVE these characters, even if you don't want to. You get angry and sad, but still, through it all, you feel for them, and see why they do what they do.
It's been a long time since I have been so touched by the characters in a book. They became more than characters to me. They were my friends. I cried when they cried and I laughed when they laughed. The story is depressing and dark. It is heartbreaking and pretty emotionally draining, to be honest.Read more ›
The writing is excellent, different from your typical novel, and I felt it almost had a slight touch of James Joyce in it, with Ms. MacDonald's ability to mix nursery rhymes, child's poems, and church hymns into the literature in a meaningful manner that contributes to the story.
What I didn't like was two aspects. One was Ginger. I admire Ginger for all his morals, hard work, and his "goodness". And then to break down in a single moment like that....while it doesn't make sense....as a man I have to say in respone to a previous reviewer... yes ladies there is actually indeed a lot of thought and second guessing that goes on between the process of getting excited and then suddenly deciding to enter somebody....Ginger would not have done such. As well I questioned Frances sudden desire to get pregnant and to get pregnant by ginger...why Ginger?....maybe I missed something with regards to that aspect.
My only other complaint was that looking back on it, it reads like it was partially funded by the Federal Ministry for Multiculturalism (yes there is such a thing in Canada) : Scots, Whites, Blacks, Catholics, Arabs, Protestants, Baptists, Homosexuals, Transgenders, Cripples, Child Prostitues, Spinsters, Single Mothers, Drug Addicts, Social Strife among workers, War hero's, incest,(...)...have I mentioned them all?Read more ›
I've been meaning to write about this book for some time, but I keep putting it out of my mind. In fact, that's how it was reading it. When I had it in my hands I was insatiable, sucking down the wordsmithing of the author, enjoying the way she presents and re-presents ideas in different lights and voices. Amazingly good writing. It's a rare thing.
But the content is ... depressing. Contemptable. Predictable, even. The central family is so tragic that it is actually funny at times. And then I feel embarrassed for laughing. The father is a pedophile. The mother is one of the most sympathetic characters I've ever seen. Then Frances, the filthy woman-child, becomes the center. But not quite... Lily is a beautifully drawn character, as are all the girls. Oh, and Rose. I could love Rose. Who wouldn't? so many artfully done views of the characters! Ya love 'em, ya hate 'em. But when I would put the book down it was days before I could pick it up again.
I have to compare it with Grapes of Wrath, the way it moves between generations. There are no surprises in this book, just layers of misery. And that's not a criticism, rather an observation about this book. I think some readers were looking for some great discovery, only to find that they already knew what was going on.
I was surprised when the weight was somehow lightened at the end. Like the disgruntled debutante finding peace at her 20 year highschool reunion, when the son shows up with the family tree there is a kind of warm nostalgia... Makes you wish you could hear the piano stylings of Daddy Rose...
Most recent customer reviews
I live Ann¬Marie MacDonald, a great author. Beautifully written. It is one of my top ten books, definitely worth reading!!!Published 16 months ago by Carrie Bertoncello
This is a heart wrenching book. I found I had to put it down and take a break from the emotional tidal wave. It is a wonderful book and superbly written.Published 20 months ago by Elizabeth
Fascinating study of relationships, both human and divine. Disturbing and thought provoking yet a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.Published on Jan. 27 2014 by Greg Dobbin
This is one of the most spectacular debut novels I've ever come across. A very complicated story primarily concerning a single family but crossing through multiple generations and... Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2013 by SG
Thought this book was very good but story did not stay with me as other stories have. I remember enjoying the story at the time I was reading the book, but quickly forgetting about... Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2010 by Halifax Mary
My mother gave this book to me to read when I was about sixteen and I think I have read it four times since. I give this book to friends and suggest it to new immigrants to Canada. Read morePublished on May 9 2010 by Brittany Levett