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Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Fall on Your Knees (1996)

by Ann-Marie MacDonald

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English (101)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Korean (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (109)
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About as uplifting as digging out a mass grave, MacDonald’s portrayal of an immigrant family shattered from within by abuse isn’t going to win anyone’s most-loved novel awards. It’s memorable, and it’s, for the most part, well-written, but it’s just too close to the bone for comfort. I’m sure that’s exactly what MacDonald was intending, however.

The novel mostly traces the lives of the daughters of Irish James Piper and Lebanese Materia and is told through a series of flashbacks so that your sense of narrative is, for the most part, disjointed. This only adds to the reader’s discomfort. By the time the daughters are old enough for us to see life through their eyes, we begin to get a picture that something is not quite right. You’re never quite sure what exactly is wrong though.

Daddy James is a nasty piece of work, but you don’t really get that initially. I’ve told you up front so you can despise him and his duplicity right from the start rather than, as I did, from about halfway through when I realised what was going on.

I didn’t really enjoy this one although I could appreciate that it was well-constructed. The daughters, despite being victims, weren’t really characters I cared too much about. They either take out their emotional insecurities on themselves or their peers. There seems little hope in any of their lives. Guilt and Catholicism go hand in hand throughout, as they always do, and there’s a desperation about the whole thing which is very unsettling.

I felt MacDonald laid it on a bit thick sometimes. As if the crises of identity that abuse engenders weren’t enough, she felt obliged to also throw in a character who’s not only black and a lesbian but a transvestite to boot. You couldn’t make it up. MacDonald can. ( )
  arukiyomi | Aug 26, 2018 |
I had a difficult time with this book. The story of sisters and their dysfunctional upbringing - based in Cape Breton. The family was completely devastated by a tragic event that took place in their family. It spans many years and the characters never quite recover, leading them to cope in very different ways. It is dark and sad and went on for too long. I finished it but struggled to do so. ( )
  tinkerbellkk | Nov 7, 2017 |
Oh my goodness, what a sprawling tale with all the ups and downs and skeletons in the closet of real lives. I absolutely loved it! ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
Beautifully written. ( )
  huntersun9 | Oct 29, 2016 |
Lily stays sitting. “Frances. What if Ambrose is the Devil?” “He’s not the Devil. I know who the Devil is and it isn’t Ambrose.” “Who’s the Devil?” Frances crouches down as if she were talking to Trixie. “That’s something I’ll never tell you, Lily, no matter how old you get to be, because the Devil is shy. It makes him angry when someone recognizes him, so once they do the Devil gets after them. And I don’t want the Devil to get after you.” “Is the Devil after you?”

This is Ann-Marie MacDonald's debut novel. I need to keep reminding myself about this fact that it's a debut novel because it is a polished work of complexity and beauty.

Fall on Your Knees, set in Cape Breton at in the first half of the 20th century, tells the story of Materia, Kathleen, Mercedes, Frances, and Lily - i.e. all the women of the Piper family. Each woman has a voice, a distinct history, a distinct outlook on life - and a distinct fate. So, really this is a novel with five main characters - not to mention James, who dwells at the centre of all their lives.

This book has so many layers that it was easy to be sucked into the world of the Pipers. But it is not a comfortable place. Far from it, it is a world full of harshness, brutality, and abuse, where each of the characters is trying to escape the confines of what holds them. Be it religion, loyalty, or something else - each character has their own form of imprisonment.

"God did not put me on this earth to stand by while my sister Frances is killed. Beaten is one thing. Wrongly touched is one thing. Stabbed with a bayonet is another. Push. Be strong enough to carry the burden of sin that goes with doing the right thing. There is only one saint in this family and I’m not it. God has made Mercedes a judge. No one loves you for that. Not like a crippled child who’s prone to visions. Whom Mercedes prizes. Not like a fallen woman who makes people laugh. Whom Mercedes loves."

When reading some of the reviews, the aspect that I have picked up on most is that people have read this because it was an Oprah bookclub read. I am usually hesitant to follow up hyped up books, but sometimes, just sometimes, they are a exactly the type of book that will work their way into your soul.

Fall on Your Knees is a perfectly constructed family saga, but it is also more than this. It is a beautifully sketched insight into the human condition.

Mercedes is neither a saint nor a sinner. She is somewhere in between. She is why purgatory was invented. ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
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Book description
The Piper family is steeped in secrets, lies, and unspoken truths. At the eye of the storm is one secret that threatens to shake their lives - evn destroy them. Set on stormy Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia, Fall on Your Knees is an internationally acclaimed multigenerational saga that chronicles the lives of four unforgettable sister. Theris is a world filled with driving ambition, inescapable family bonds, and forbidden love. (0-7432-3718-8)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743237188, Paperback)

A sprawling saga about five generations of a family from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Fall on Your Knees is the impressive first fiction from Canadian playwright and actor Ann-Marie MacDonald. This epic tale of family history, family secrets, and music centers on four sisters and their relationships with each other and with their father. Set in the coal-mining communities of Nova Scotia in the early part of this century, the story also shifts to the battlefields of World War I and the jazz scene of New York City in the 1920s.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:00 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The story of a jinxed family, a catalog of rape, incest and death. James Piper abuses his daughter, atones by sending her to New York to study singing while he goes to war, she returns pregnant, dies in childbirth when her mother opens her to save her twins. One of the twins dies, mother commits suicide, the second twin contracts polio while being baptized in a creek by an aunt, the aunt is raped by James. A first novel set in Nova Scotia early this century.… (more)

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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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