FALL ON YOUR KNEES by Ann-Marie MacDonald


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 From award-winning Canadian actress and playwright MacDonald comes a full-bodied, ever-rolling debut, the story of a talented Cape Breton family with more than its share of repression and tragedy. As the 19th century ends, young James Piper travels from the Breton hinterland to the civilized port of Sydney seeking his fortune, and in no time at all he acquires a child bride, a house built by his Lebanese father-in-law, and the everlasting enmity of his wife's powerful family. Although the ardor between James and his spouse soon cools, they now have a daughter, Kathleen, who seems destined for great things when her breathtaking voice and beauty begin to captivate all as she enters her teens. But another shadow falls on the family when James finds himself making improper advances to her. Appalled, he patches things up with his wife (two more daughters being the result), goes off to fight in WW I, and sends Kathleen to New York to study voice after he returns. All still isn't well, however, when she comes home pregnant six months later, then dies in childbirth when Mom slices her open to save her daughter's twins. One of them dies anyway, followed two days later by Mom, who commits suicide. James is left with three girls to raise, all of them scarred for life by the crisis: The newborn contracts polio when her aunt Frances, a child herself, tries to baptize her in a nearby creek; Frances is raped by James in his grief at losing Kathleen; the eldest, a witness to the rape, is also the one to find her mother's body. Such awful events, though quickly repressed, bode no good for the family, and ultimately tragedy overtakes them all. A plate piled dangerously high with calamities, perhaps, but the time, place, and people- -especially the children--all ring clear and true, making for an accomplished, considerably affecting saga.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83320-4
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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