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Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – January 24, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction Ed edition (January 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743237188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743237185
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (651 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

From Booklist

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

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Customer Reviews

This book is strange, I didn't care about any of the characters, I found the plot unconvincing.
To me, a good book is one that I slow down on reading it toward the end because I know I'm going to end up missing reading about the characters when I finish.
Berine Coleman
Characters, plot, story, beautiful language, pace, and a talented writer show that "Fall on Your Knees" is a book that everyone should read.
Caroline P. Hampton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Mitchell on February 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
The only way that I can describe Fall on Your Knees is to compare it to a car accident. You don't want to look, but you can't stop yourself. The story of the Piper family is one of sadness, perversion, and well kept secrets. The writing is excellent, though the reader may find themselves confused at times. Some things are written like riddles, that leave you wondering if what you read means what you think it means. Keep reading..as the story unfolds, answers are revealed and things clarified. This is definitely a dark book, so prepare yourself, but it also is a page turner. This book is hard to put down, because you will want to know where is it going, why? What does this all mean? After completing it, I'm still trying to figure out if I liked it? But there is no question, the writing is supreme and the characters are still with me. That's good writing.
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81 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Perry on January 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book, recommended to me by one of my college students, is one of those novels you can simply dive into and lose yourself in. Although I also read, and enjoy, punchy, sardonic, razor-edge writing like "The Corrections" (Franzen) and "White Noise" (DeLillo), this book is far from those styles. It's an old-fashioned "good read," focusing deeply on each character and twisting them around one another in endless ways.
There is obsession here, the darkest kind, and yet the book is also, in places, heartbreaking in its compassion for the characters. The most interesting of the four sisters, to me, was Frances. Mostly because her spinning out of control was unlike any I've read before. Her longing and misery, and her many idiosyncrasies, make her an unforgettable character.
The story of the parents in this story is so dismal in spots, that it brought to mind "Angela's Ashes," though the plot is nothing close.
I think that what makes this book stand apart from other good reads is the feeling that the author truly came to love her characters. And the story is so multi-faceted and surprising that it fully earns its 500-plus pages.
Great book. I haven't read many of "Oprah's" book club choices, but I applaud her on this choice.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Terrill on January 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
I just finished this book last night. Rarely do I read a book that I am unable to put down. But immediately upon reading the first chapter, I found myself submerged in the world of Cape Breton and the Piper family. It wasn't the plot that kept me reading (until the last 2 sections); it was the writing, the language, the sheer intensity, passion and power of the book.
This is not an easy book to read. People do horrible things to each other - and to themselves - in this book. But, unlike some modern novels I have read and DISLIKED (e.g. Book of Ruth), there is redemption at the end. And I think that is important.
I see the heart of this novel as being about what it means to be a family. It's about the stories that families create, and how those stories define a family. And, in the end, how it is love that creates a family. Not marriage, not birth, not religion. Love, with all its messiness and selfishness, purity and desire and hope.
Other reviewers have described the language of this story. I do not find it overdone. It seems to me that MacDonald uses it carefully, expertly, respectful of its power, unleashing its intensity when appropriate.
If you are disturbed by stories about dysfunctional families or unconventional relationships, don't read this book. If you are willing to leave your body for a few days and immerse yourself in another world, if you are willing to be angered, amused, and touched to your core, then buy this book, and read it soon.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful By jeanne-scott on February 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Fall On Your Knees is a novel that contains every ugly possibility that can happen within a family. While hope briefly flickers from time to time, it is always firmly snuffed out. Desperation colors every action and thought.
Ann-Marie MacDonald's multigenerational novel about the Piper family takes place on Cape Breton. This is a story of pedophilia, shunning, incest, abuse, hate, obsession, racism, abandonment, murder, lust, suicide, kidnapping,and torrential lies. Playing in the background is the relentless sound of shattering dreams. Through all of this the Catholic Church plays the role of concealer and co-conspirator of horrible secrets. The Catholic Church is also made to appear to promote false hopes with rituals and unanswered prayers at every turn, by nearly every character. The prayers offered in this novel are as effective as talking to a wall, no one is really there listening and there is NEVER any answer. If someone knew nothing about the Catholic faith this novel would be the opposite of enlightening!!
The author does an amazing job of plumbing the depths of despair in a wide variety of characters. All of her characters are carefully crafted and complex. The story is told back and forth through time in a manner well designed not to fit the final pieces of the puzzle together until the very end. Even when you are sure that you know what the picture will look like you may be surprised.
There is something about this novel that is so reminiscient of WE WERE THE MULVANEYS, and that "something" is a story devoid of any true love, any real hope or any honest faith.
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