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140 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre Page Turner
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...
Published on February 23, 2002 by Sandra Mitchell

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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars despair (noun) : the utter loss of hope....
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,...
Published on February 1, 2002 by jeanne-scott


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140 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre Page Turner, February 23, 2002
By 
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (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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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oprah has made a good choice, January 24, 2002
By 
Perry (Champaign, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, Riveting, Difficult, January 24, 2001
This review is from: Fall on Your Knees. (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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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, dark story about family secrets., February 14, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback)
First of all, since I grew up in the area described in the book, it was of special interest to me: I could actually picture the scenes. The story is gripping - couldn't put it down until I finished every page. It's representative of what we don't want to know is out there: family dysfunction, pain, anguish and dispair. But let's be fair: one review mentioned that this was a portrait of the darknes of Nova Scotia. It's a portrait of a hard lifestyle: whether it be coal mining communities in Cape Breton or steel workers in industrial centres in the U.S. These people don't choose these jobs because they're enjoyable - they choose them because they're there, and they have families to support. And it's not just the miners who struggle: it's the whole community. And beyond it all, along with the nice families who all get along and have nice Christmas dinners together, are the families such as portrayed in this novel: the ties that bind are blood, and there's a terrible ambivilance between love and hate; need to be a family and need to destroy each other. The institutions we're supposed to see as the foundation for our lives,such as family, church and community, are sometimes our destruction. Anne-Marie MacDonald makes you live all emotions in her eloquent portrayal of this symphony of discord. I'm not sure I liked how I felt at the end of the novel, but therein lies the talent of the artist. Life is sometimes ugly, and quite frankly, this book left me feeling pretty damned good about my own life. A book that will stand the test of time. But prepare yourself for the voyage.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars despair (noun) : the utter loss of hope...., February 1, 2002
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (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. FALL ON YOUR KNEES has been described as a wild ride, and I agree, like being trapped in a crashing train, you see, hear and feel it happening, you can't stop looking, you can't stop it from happening and you can't get away. I think the author has a stunning ability to create and weave multi-faceted characters in a complex web of drama and this is a breath taking first novel of desolation and despair.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating, beautiful novel, September 25, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall on Your Knees. (Paperback)
I bought this book while attending a production of the author's "Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)" in London. I liked her style and gave it a shot. What a rewarding gamble! Six pounds bought me a weeks worth of the best reading I've had "Their Eyes Were Watching God." The weighty novel took me only a week to read because I couldn't put it down: I read it on the Tube, in lines, before bed, while cooking. MacDonald writes prose like poetry- words to be tasted, but even more, as an actor these were characters that I no only could imagine being performed, but who I wanted to characterize. I recommend not only this novel, but MacDonald's other works also. Her background as an actor and a playwrite among other skills grounds this tragic family in reality, in experience. MacDonald doesn't have to force the issues she addresses, they are simply an organic part of the writing. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of her writing is the lack of judgement placed on the characters. MacDonald shows them for what they are and lets them speak for themselves. Hooray for a multi talented woman with a voice!
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very impressive (if somewhat overrated) literary debut, April 24, 2002
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback)
Fall On Your Knees is a most impressive first novel from Anne-Marie MacDonald, previously best known (at least here in Canada) as an actress and playwright (nowadays she's probably best known as the host of Life and Times, a kind of Canadian version of A&E's Biography series). Being a first novel, it has many of the same strengths and weaknesses common to a lot of maiden literary efforts.
Ultimately, of all the novels that I've read, the one this most resembles is Steinbeck's East of Eden. A lot of the action in both novels takes place in the same approximate historical era, both make extensive use of biblical imagery and themes, both are (in different ways) about how the sins of a father are visited on his offspring, and how family secrets and lies eventually reverberate through generations like bullets that shatter upon entering the human body and end up wreaking fearful damage in many nooks and crannies. Both novels also in the end suffer somewhat from the fact that they're obviously straining to be Great Books that will also connect with a popular audience.
On the plus side, Fall On Your Knees practically throbs on every page with its author's obvious love of language and sheer joy in the storytelling process itself. The story shifts continually back and forth in time and place as it relates the sprawling, multi-generational saga of the Piper and (to a much lesser extent) Mahmoud families of Cape Breton. Unlike so much modern fiction, with it's airless prose, and cramped, crabbed preoccupations (the product, I believe, of too much time spent in creative writing seminars and not enough time spent actually out and about in the world), Fall On Your Knees is a big book about Big Things. Moreover, in focusing mainly on the Piper daughters, Kathleen, Mercedes, (especially) Frances, and Lily, Ms. MacDonald demonstrates demonstrates an exceptional ability to sketch vivid, complex, and ultimately heartbreaking female characters, and her ear for the speech patterns of young girls is positively uncanny.
Nonetheless, I also think that the novel has some significant weaknesses that prevent it from becoming the masterpiece it's more overly enthusiastic partisans claim it to be. In some respects, its weaknesses are of a piece with its strengths. Earlier, I mentioned the author's obvious love of language. Many passages in this book are as beautifully written and moving as anything I've ever read(You will literally laugh AND cry). Unfortunately, there are many others that are simply OVERWRITTEN, and this ultimately dilutes some of the story's obvious power. The same can be said for the novel's structure, which not only weaves back and forth in time as already mentioned, but also tells multiple versions of the same events from multiple points of view. Some have compared this technique to peeling away the layers of an onion, but I think a more accurate analogy would be to a striptease. Like a striptease, the "climax" is really an anti-climax, since too much has been revealed at too great a length already. Any reasonably astute reader will have long since figured out what "really" happened long before everything is explained once and for all. Instead of drawing you deeper into the story, the red herrings that MacDonald continues to pile up just become annoying after awhile and by what I'm sure is meant to be a shattering climax, I for one could only say to myself, "What took you so long?" However, it must be said that there is ONE genuine surprise towards the end, that while it seems to come completely out of left field, makes a certain amount of sense once you think about it for more than a moment.
Still, overall, Fall On Your Knees is not only worth reading, it makes you eagerly anticipate Ms. MacDonald's follow-up efforts (hopefully there will be many more). Even its failures are the result of too much ambition, rather than a lack of talent. It's almost always better to reach for the stars and fall just short, than not to reach at all.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking and Beautifully Written, February 21, 2002
By 
beachrunnerjkn@netscape.net (United States of America) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback)
This book has so much depth and intensity that it is difficult to find the words to review it with. From racial boundries and war to familial issues, incest, religion and different levels of relationships, there is little this book leaves out. And yet, unlike some authors who try to tackle too much, Ms. MacDonald succeeds in covering it all beautifully.
This book is about multi-generations of a family from Nova Scotia. The most compelling stories lie within the four surviving children of the family -- four girls, each one incredibly different from the next. The parents of the girls are an interesting component of the book, as are the grandparents -- and the father plays a large, highly impactful, role in the lives of the girls. Some characters you will love others not, but undoubtedly no one in the Piper family will leave your mind for a long time.
The stories and plights of this family are unbelievable and breathtaking. The book brings in different twists, turns and surprises on every page, and I found myself having to turn back pages in order to gain new insights into what really happened. Nothing is ever what it seems, and nothing is what you expect it to be.
This book is incredible -- anyone who appreciates artistry in writing, and compelling stories that take you through a full gamut of emotions and thoughts -- that develop your mind as a reader,will love this book.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Everything but the kitchen sink, March 5, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback)
I have yet to read an Oprah's Book Club Selection that I would not recommend. Fall On Your Knees is the exception.
After reading the rave reviews, I was looking forward to reading the lengthy novel. Once I began, there were many times that I wanted to put the book on the shelf and not read any further. But then I'd think to myself, 'so many people liked this book, I must be missing something.' Or 'Maybe I haven't gotten to the good part yet.' Well, I just finished the novel, and I never did reach the good part. The plot was absurd and the writing disjointed. Ms. MacDonald raised so many issues- child sexual abuse, physical abuse, suicide, prostitution, murder, incestual rape, homosexuality, just to name a few, but never fully explores or develops any of them. It was if the author were in a contest to create the MOST dysfunctional family. I think the novel would have benefited greatly if its scope had been narrowed somewhat.
My last complaint, why after rattling on for 500 pages, must the conclusion be so abrupt. It appears Ms. MacDonald finally grew tired of the absurdity of it all and could not bear to write another word.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and foreboding, masterfully written., April 16, 2002
By 
Denise Bentley "Kelsana" (The California Redwoods) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) (Paperback)
Written by a natural born storyteller, MacDonald allows the reader to amble through the insanity that becomes the Piper family. We trip through the abuse, lust, neglect, alcoholism, homosexuality, and the many lies that keep the truth buried so deep, no one will ever unravel fact from fiction. A twisted tale of survivors as well as those that are annihilated by the insanity of a family that continues on at all costs. The prices paid are astronomical when measured against the joys reaped.
This is an intense book, marked by a profundity that keeps the reader aware of the sadness that permeates the writing. Writing where the description of even the joyful moments, which are all too few, has an element of sadness shadowing it. At times it became quite difficult for me to read, the story telling was that antagonizing, pulling the reader along like a whirlpool of exasperation, never knowing what would surface. I can only now say that I am glad I continued because it was certainly worth the ride. Kelsana 4/16/02
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Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club)
Fall On Your Knees (Oprah's Book Club) by Ann-Marie MacDonald (Paperback - January 24, 2002)
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