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Too Close to the Falls Paperback – February 26, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Now a successful clinical psychologist with a monthly advice column in the popular Canadian magazine Chatelaine, Gildiner tells of her childhood in 1950s Lewiston, N.Y., a small town near Niagara Falls, in this hilarious and moving coming-of-age memoir. Deemed hyperactive by the town's pediatrician, at age four Gildiner was put to work at her father's pharmacy in an effort to harness her energy. Her stories of delivering prescriptions with her father's black deliveryman, Roy, are the most affecting parts of this book, with young Cathy serving as map reader for the illiterate but streetwise fellow, who acted as both protector and fellow adventurer. In a style reminiscent of the late Jean Shepherd, Gildiner tells her tales with a sharp humor that rarely misses a beat and underscores the dark side of what at first seems a Norman Rockwell existence. Mired in a land dispute, the local Native American population has a chief who requires sedatives to subdue his violent moods. Meanwhile, the feared "monster" who maintains the town dump is simply afflicted with "Elephant Man" syndrome. And Cathy's mother--with her intellectual preoccupations and aversion to housework and visiting neighbors--is an emblem of prefeminist frustration. The book's vaunted celebrity dish--Gildiner delivered sleeping pills to Marilyn Monroe on the set of Niagara--pales in comparison to such ordinary adult pathos. By book's end, Cathy, too, gets her share, as beloved Roy mysteriously exits and an entanglement with a confused young priest brings her literally and figuratively "too close to the falls."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Clinical psychologist Gildiner's well-crafted memoir describes her 1950s childhood in Lewiston, "a small town in western New York, a few miles north of Niagara Falls." Hers was no ordinary childhood but that of a precocious, headstrong, and intelligent girl whose parents provided a uniquely unconventional upbringing. Because of her lively temperament, her pediatrician recommended to her older and devoutly Catholic parents that she work in her father's pharmacy to channel her energies. Thus, at the age of four, she was teamed with a black male employee to deliver prescription drugs when not in school. She had a wide range of experiences with her co-worker, stopping in bars and making deliveries to both the wealthiest and the poorest members of the community. In each eventful chapter, Gildiner focuses on a particular adult who strongly influenced her understanding of the world. Often dangerous, her experiences, as related here, are also amusing, charming, and relevant. Highly recommended.DSue Samson, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014200040X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142000403
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Reviewer Dr. Beth #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
I don't read much non-fiction, but I received this book as a gift and thoroughly enjoyed it. The author describes her unconvential childhood growing up near Niagara Falls, NY. Today, Gildiner would probably be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but back then, she was put to work in her father's drugstore at age four to burn off some of her "excess eneregy"--her doctor's orders! As Gildiner describes her experiences from pre-school through her teen years, she talks in the voice of the child she was then rather than the adult she is now. Her style is extremely effective in transporting the reader into her past life, a life that seems to have been both bewildering and magnificent at the same time. There is something for everyone here: television, racial conflicts, religious questioning, teen sexuality, Hollywood, and much more in this unique view of the "Leave it to Beaver" era.
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By A Customer on March 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
One of the very best memoirs I have ever read and I specialize in girlhood memoirs. Born in the same year as the author, I very much enjoyed her recollections of how it was to grow up female in the early fifties. However the writer's childhood was undoubtedly more eccentric and adventurous than mine and probably most of our contemporaries. Her recounting of the wonderful and unique characters she encountered and how they shaped her perceptions of life is both hilarious and deeply affecting. I am truly grateful that she has brought them into my life to entertain and educate me as well. This book ends as she begins her teen years. Should she write a sequel, and I fervently hope she will, I will be first in line to buy it. This book is quite simply a remarkable reading experience!
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By A Customer on November 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was an absolute delight to read. It has the innocence and laugh-out-loud humor of a child's perpective.
From the intelligently quirky mother to Warty, the self-appointed caretaker of the city dump, all of the characters ring true. And after just a few sentences Gildiner has you feeling like you really know them.
And then there's the main character, the author as a child, who basically grew up in her father's drug store. It's a miracle she lived long enough, given her adventures and attitude, to write the book. Lucky for us she did.
Each chapter is a short-story unto itself, a la Jean Shepherd. And there just aren't enough of them. After 350 pages you're left feeling cheated because there aren't 350 more.
Read this book.
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Format: Paperback
The author's engaging style and an endearing cast of characters make this one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time. Her family's eccentricities (eating every meal at restaurants, seven days a week) had me laughing aloud at times, while tales of ordinary people struggling with their human frailties make the story especially poignant. The author is skilled in building the reader's sense of righteous indignation over various injustices that occur along the way, often in connection with her religious education. I was so caught up in the book that I recommended it to several friends. Unfortunately, the story line took a nosedive toward the end. The author's reminiscences about the romantic entanglements of a young priest assigned to teach her religion class just don't ring true to me. Perhaps I'm not in the best position to judge this, as I'm not Catholic and did not attend Catholic school, but the idea of a young priest taking a 15-year-old girl on a romantic dinner date and plying her with wine till she gets drunk seems pretty far-fetched to me, especially in that day and age. As the scene played on, I kept expecting to find that it was a dream or daytime reverie, and that the the author would return us eventually to the real world. Even if the story is true, the tone she sets in the previous chapters doesn't prepare the reader for this turn of events. The promise of the book's beginning falls flat, and the ending comes so abruptly that it seems as if she just couldn't figure out any other way to finish up. Nonetheless, she is an extraordinarily talented writer with enchanting stories to tell, embellished or not, and I hope to see new works from her in the future.
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Format: Paperback
The first 250 pages of this book cover Catherine Gildiner's unusual childhood. It was pleasing to read a memoire with really nice parents, even if their childraising strategies were bizarre.

But when I got to the parts about Catherine's life age 10 and after, the charming, funny, strange, scenic stories and well-realized characters were replaced with essayistic writing concentrating on her Catholic faith or lack thereof and descriptions of what seemed to me cliched Catholic nuns and priests. I lost interest, but read to the end.

I wish there had been some kind of conclusion drawn, or a wrap up of how her life developed after the last episode, but no such luck. I felt let down.

Oh, well, I was entertained for the better part of a week. What more can you want?
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Format: Paperback
Catherine Gildiner, a clinical psychologist and advice columnist, has written a fascinating memoir about her years growing up in Lewiston NY in the 50s. As a hyperactive and precocious child of four, she was put to work in her father's pharmacy under "doctor's orders." Her unconventional upbringing by older, free-thinking parents, who gave her a lot of leeway to think for herself and take responsibility for her actions, contrasted sharply with her stringent Catholic school education. Gildiner deftly uses her psychology training to show how young Cathy perceived herself and others, and how she struggled to peel through the layers of social and religious convention to see small-town Lewiston as it really was.
The author does an excellent job of painting portraits of the people that influenced her life. These include her mother, a very atypical 50s housewife who never cooked or kept house, her hard working civic-minded father, and Roy, the black pharmacy deliveryman who took Cathy on his rounds. Through her prescription deliveries, Cathy met Warty, a disfigured outcast who worked at the garbage dump, Mad Bear, the chief of the Tuscarora Indian tribe, and Marie, a retired prostitute/abortionist. Cathy bumped heads with an assortment of classmates, nuns, and priests at school and church.
This is a wonderful coming of age story that is poignant and thought-provoking. There were many humorous touches as Cathy described the world through an innocent child's eyes. There was also a dark side to this memoir as she puzzled over the disturbing and often contradictory elements of society that were often kept under wraps during that era.
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