Fall on your Knees

Fall on your Knees

Book - 1996
Average Rating:
28
1
1
Rate this:
"What a wild ride -- I couldn't turn the pages fast enough," Oprah Winfrey told her viewers as she announcedFall on Your Kneesas her February 2002 Book Club selection. Set largely in a Cape Breton coal mining community called New Waterford, ranging through four generations, Ann-Marie MacDonald's dark, insightful and hilarious first novel focuses on the Piper sisters and their troubled relationship with their father, James. Winner of the 1997 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, it was a national bestseller in Canada for two years, and it has been translated into 17 languages. At the start of the 20th century, James Piper sets fire to his dead mother's piano and heads out across Cape Breton Island to find a new place to live, eventually eloping with 13-year-old Materia Mahmoud, the daughter of wealthy, traditional Lebanese parents. And so, from early on, Ann-Marie MacDonald establishes some major themes: racial tension, isolation, passion and forbidden love, which will gradually lead to incest, death in childbirth, and even murder. At the centre of this epic story is the nature of family love, beginning with the Piper sister who depend on one another for survival. Their development as characters -- beautiful Kathleen, the promising diva; saintly Mercedes; Frances, the mischievous bad girl, who tries to bear the family's burden; and disabled Lily, everyone's favourite -- forms the heart of the novel. And then there is James, their flawed father. Moving from Cape Breton Island to the battlefields of World War I, to Harlem in New York's Jazz Age and the Depression, the tense and enthralling plot ofFall on Your Kneescontains love, pain, death, joy, and triumph. The structure of the narrative is multi-faceted, richly layered, and shifts back and forth through time as it approaches the story from different angles, "giving it a mythic qualitythat allows dark, half buried secrets to be gracefully and chillingly revealed" (The New York Times Book Review).As the details of the labyrinthine plot are pulled together, the question of whether it is possible to escape one's family history gradually raises itself. The book's epigraph, taken fromWuthering Heights, seems appropriate to a novel concerned with the different, often violent, forms that love can take. On the inexorable journey towards tragedy we encounter dark yet vivid images of neglect and violence, yet the novel radiates an unquenchable life-force, and yet the novel radiates an unquenchable life-force, shimmering with emotional depth, sensual with virtuoso descriptions of the power of music. It is a saga haunted by ghosts and saints, religious fanaticism and magic. MacDonald gives the most ordinary lives extraordinarily dramatic dimensions. TheSunday Timeswrote, "It is the unpredictability of this huge book that is its greatest joy." With allusions ranging from Hollywood stars to religious tracts,Fall on Your Kneessimmers with vibrancy and crackling, effervescent, breathtaking language. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1996.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780394281599
0394281594
Characteristics: 566 p.

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment

r
ritarufus
Oct 16, 2017

Following the curves of history in the first half of the twentieth century, Fall On Your Knees takes us from haunted Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, through the battle fields of World War One, to the emerging jazz scene of New York city and into the lives of four unforgettable sisters. The mythically charged Piper family--James, a father of intelligence and immense ambition, Materia, his Lebanese child-bride, and their daughters: Kathleen, a budding opera Diva; Frances, the incorrigible liar and hell-bent bad girl; Mercedes, obsessive Catholic and protector of the flock; and Lily, the adored invalid who takes us on a quest for truth and redemption--is supported by a richly textured cast of characters. Together they weave a tale of inescapable family bonds, of terrible secrets, of miracles, racial strife, attempted murder, birth and death, and forbidden love. Moving and finely written, Fall On Your Knees is by turns dark and hilariously funny, a story--and a world--that resonate long after the last page is turned.

2nd time reading it. Loved it.

c
Catherine41
Aug 28, 2017

I couldn't put the book down, but I found the storyline to be unrealistic throughout - like a fantasy rather than reality. Maybe that was the point. I was disturbed by some of the character's behaviour, especially James and Mercedes.

VaughanPLKasey Nov 09, 2016

A historical, domestic epic following four generations of the Piper family in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia from the late 19th to early 20th century. MacDonald’s heart-wrenching prose finds the threads of beauty even within the darkest recesses of humanity, as the novel deals with poverty, alcoholism, racism, child sexual abuse, and death, as the family members try and very often fail to break out of the cycles into which they were born.

l
lerche
Oct 21, 2015

A morbidly fascinating story about a fatally flawed man and his daughters. Extremely well-written. Could not put it down. This book is not for the prudes among us.

g
gvlee
Mar 16, 2015

I found the characters were unlikeable and the storyline incoherent. I gave up after 85 pages.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 11, 2014

A compelling first novel by an award-winning Canadian playwright. MacDonald knows how to set scenes that leave you breathless--with laughter, deep recognition, or shock! She portrays the earliest years of our country’s century, following the lives of four Nova-Scotian sisters in and out of the tangled web of their shared past, present and future. Don’t miss this!

mooncat Jan 09, 2014

I found the description of the sexual child abuse offensive and although I read this book to the end, the story line did not make sense most of the time which showed the author's lack of experience writing novels. I would not recommend this book to others.

a
ashleysears
Nov 07, 2013

SPOILERS ------I hated Mercedes from the start, I actually disliked her more then the father and he was a sick bastard. Don't use god as an excuse for anything. Hating your sisters because people like them for them even if one of them is rottenly bad. She never did anything because she was nice she did it because she wanted something out of it. And why did she tell Adalaide no to giving her and Ginger the baby, why was it better to leave him in that home? Why would you tell your sister her baby died, when you can see that, that was what finally made her happy. That's pure selfishness, and had nothing to do with God. The only part that was good was that she finally made the family tree the correct way, even if Frances had to fight to get her to hear the truth. PS Frances was my favorite.

p
Pisinga
Nov 09, 2012

I didn't get it. I do not like the composition of the book, lengthy description of "girls' games". I do not know if this is good or bad, but I could not read beyond half of this book.

b
barbarad27
Jan 31, 2012

An absolute Must Read!! Tugs at your emotions and I found myself unable to put it down. Fabulous!

View All Comments

Summary

Add a Summary

EPLPicks_Teen Apr 06, 2010

A complex story of lust, betrayals and long-held secrets, set in Cape Breton. The saga begins in 1899 when James Piper, 18, elopes with Materia Mahmoud, 13.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

  Loading...

Find it at OPL

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top