Fall On Your Knees

Fall On Your Knees

4.2 167
by Ann-Marie MacDonald

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They are the Pipers of Cape Breton Island -- a family steeped in lies and unspoken truths that reach out from the past, forever mindful of the tragic secret that could shatter the family to its foundations.

Chronicling five generations of this eccentric clan, Fall On Your Knees follows four remarkable sisters whose lives are filled with driving ambition,


They are the Pipers of Cape Breton Island -- a family steeped in lies and unspoken truths that reach out from the past, forever mindful of the tragic secret that could shatter the family to its foundations.

Chronicling five generations of this eccentric clan, Fall On Your Knees follows four remarkable sisters whose lives are filled with driving ambition, inescapable family bonds, and forbidden love. Their experiences will take them from their stormswept homeland, across the battlefields of World War I, to the freedom and independence of Jazz-era New York City.

Compellingly written, running the literary gamut from menacingly dark to hilariously funny, this is an epic saga of one family's trials and triumphs in a world of sin, guilt, and redemption.

Product Details

Pocket Books
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4.24(w) x 6.74(h) x 1.13(d)

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Fall on Your Knees

By Ann-Marie MacDonald

Pocket Books

Copyright © 2002 Ann-Marie MacDonald
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743466527

Silent Pictures


Here's a picture of the town where they lived. New Waterford. It's a night bright with the moon. Imagine you are looking down from the height of a church steeple, onto the vivid gradations of light and shadow that make the picture. A small mining town near cutaway cliffs that curve over narrow rock beaches below, where the silver sea rolls and rolls, flattering the moon. Not many trees, thin grass. The silhouette of a colliery, iron tower against a slim pewter sky with cables and supports sloping at forty-five-degree angles to the ground. Railway tracks that stretch only a short distance from the base of a gorgeous high slant of glinting coal, toward an archway in the earth where the tracks slope in and down and disappear. And spreading away from the collieries and coal heaps are the peaked roofs of the miners' houses built row on row by the coal company. Company houses. Company town.

Look down over the street where they lived. Water Street. An avenue of packed dust and scattered stones that leads out past the edge of town to where the wide, keeling graveyard overlooks the ocean. That sighing sound is just the sea.

Here's a picture of their house as it was then. White, wood frame with the covered veranda. It's big compared to the miners' houses. There's a piano in the front room. In the back is the kitchen where Mumma died.

Here's a picture of her the day she died. She had a stroke while cleaning the oven. Which is how the doctor put it. Of course you can't see her face for the oven, but you can see where she had her stockings rolled down for housework and, although this is a black and white picture, her housedress actually is black since she was in mourning for Kathleen at the time, as well as Ambrose. You can't tell from this picture, but Mumma couldn't speak English very well. Mercedes found her like that, half in half out of the oven like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. What did she plan to cook that day? When Mumma died, all the eggs in the pantry went bad -- they must have because you could smell that sulphur smell all the way down Water Street.

So that's the house at 191 Water Street, New Waterford, Cape Breton Island, in the far eastern province of Nova Scotia, Canada. And that's Ma on the day she died, June 23, 1919.

Here's a picture of Daddy. He's not dead, he's asleep. You see that armchair he's in? That's the pale green wingback. His hair is braided. That's not an ethnic custom. They were only ethnic on Mumma's side. Those are braids that Lily put in his hair while he was asleep.

There are no pictures of Ambrose, there wasn't time for that. Here's a picture of his crib still warm.

Other Lily is in limbo. She lived a day, then died before she could be baptized, and went straight to limbo along with all the other unbaptized babies and the good heathens. They don't suffer, they just sort of hang there effortlessly and unaware. Jesus is known to have gone into limbo occasionally and taken a particularly good heathen out of it and up to heaven. So it is possible. Otherwise....That's why this picture of Other Lily is a white blank.

Don't worry. Ambrose was baptized.

Here's one of Mercedes. That opal rosary of hers was basically priceless. An opal rosary, can you imagine? She kept it pinned to the inside of her brassiere, over her heart, at all times when she wasn't using it. Partly for divine protection, partly out of the convenience of never being without the means to say a quick decade of the beads when the spirit moved her, which was often. Although, as Mercedes liked to point out, you can say the rosary with any objects at hand if you find yourself in need of a prayer but without your beads. For example, you can say it with pebbles or breadcrumbs. Frances wanted to know, could you say the rosary with cigarette butts? The answer was yes, if you're pure at heart. With mouse turds? With someone's freckles? The dots in a newspaper photograph of Harry Houdini? That's enough, Frances. In any case, this is a picture of Mercedes, holding her opal rosary, with one finger raised and pressed against her lips. She's saying, "Shshsh."

And this is Frances. But wait, she's not in it yet. This one is a moving picture. It was taken at night, behind the house. There's the creek, flowing black and shiny between its narrow banks. And there's the garden on the other side. Imagine you can hear the creek trickling. Like a girl telling a secret in a language so much like our own. A still night, a midnight clear. It's only fair to tell you that a neighbor once saw the dismembered image of his son in this creek, only to learn upon his arrival home for supper that his son had been crushed to death by a fall of stone in Number 12 Mine.

But tonight the surface of the creek is merely as Nature made it. And certainly it's odd but not at all supernatural to see the surface break, and a real live soaked and shivering girl rise up from the water and stare straight at us. Or at someone just behind us. Frances. What's she doing in the middle of the creek, in the middle of the night? And what's she hugging to her chest with her chicken-skinny arms? A dark wet bundle. Did it stir just now? What are you doing, Frances?

But even if she were to answer, we wouldn't know what she was saying, because, although this is a moving picture, it is also a silent one.

All the pictures of Kathleen were destroyed. All except one. And it's been put away.

Kathleen sang so beautifully that God wanted her to sing for Him in heaven with His choir of angels. So He took her.

Copyright © 1996 by Ann-Marie MacDonald



Excerpted from Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald Copyright © 2002 by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Fall On Your Knees 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 167 reviews.
WishICouldWrite More than 1 year ago
Incest, rape, racism, violence, forbidden homosexuality coupled with religious fanaticism and ridiculous allegory! The story is fascinating at first, and then dissolves into a tragically bleak portrait of the darker side of an unsympathetic group of people that have the misfortune to be related to one another. There is no doubt that the author is a compelling writer; the prose is often beautiful and brilliant but interactions between the characters are derivative and pretentious; those stories have been done more effectively before. Mostly, it seems as though MacDonald feverishly vomited every "bad" thought she ever had on to the page so that she could exorcise her own demons or come to terms with her own terrifyingly violent battles with horribly dysfunctional family relationships and religion. Granted, that can make for a powerful story, but in this case, it is simply a lurid, unoriginal mess that you are painfully embarrassed upon which to intrude. WARNING: it is likely that once you start the book, you will be unable to put it down. After a while you will keep reading because you have to know how it ends. Then you will shut the book, disappointed and furious that you invested so much time to read the whole silly thing. Despite the often lyrical prose, the book is simply not worth the time and emotional investment the author unsuccessfully attempts to evoke from the reader.
leeshaAB More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be extremely well written, but dark and very disturbing. It left a pit in my stomach and kept me thinking of the messed up characters well after putting it down. There were points in the novel where I simply HAD to stop reading because I was so disgusted by the storyline and wasn't sure I could finish it. Though Im a firm believer that all stories should be told, (not just light fluffy ones), I would be hard pressed to recommended this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel shook me to the very core of my being. The twists and turns, smatterings of cultural revelations, use of setting as a character in and of itself, and the musings on family (what makes a family and what isn't a family) all merged together to make for an extraordinary novel. The book is really lyrical and dark at the same time. I recommend this book to readers who are ready for heavy content that causes you to think very deeply about the human condition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want a redemptive story featuring characters that are 'real' but not consumed by incest or rapists (i.e. a challenging, yet ultimately uplifting, inspiring story), skip Fall on Your Knees and instead pick up 'In the Fall' by Jeffrey Lent or 'Shade of the Maple' by Kirk Martin. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am by Oprah's pick - a dark, depressing, unwieldy story.
AlliePooh More than 1 year ago
I was amazed at how well this put was put together and written for it being her first book. I found it very interesting. I loved how it was written in many different perspectives. The book kept my mind at work with thinking of the possibilities and I was always wrong until of course the very end where everything unravels. I enjoyed this book very much and have loaned it to my cousin who can't put it down. I have just started reading her 2nd novel, The Way The Crows Fly, and I hope it doesn't disappoint me since she set the standard very high with Fall On Your Knees. : )
lizj22 More than 1 year ago
So I have heard of this book but just never got around to reading it. Take the time it is worth it! The writing style is different but keeps you alert. The story is compelling, mixing so many different human weaknesses and prejudices covering several generations. Another one of those cant put down books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fall On Your Knees was unlike anything I've ever read as far as the storyline goes. Just when you think you know, you realize you don't. Some parts were slow going, especially in the beginning but if you stick with it, you won't be disappointed. This book takes you through just about every emotion. Some areas were a little confusing but everything comes brilliantly together in the end. If you enjoy stories about the complicated (and in this book, downright grotesque) relationships within a family, you will really enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Utterly engrossing, engaging, horrifying, memorable, sympathetic .. hmm, maybe emotionally manipulative of the readers? Loved it, couldn't put it down - but felt guilty about that, like rubbernecking a car crash.
dfc19 More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book!!! I was originally drawn by the fact that it was an International Bestseller, but then also by the fact that Oprah had chosen it as one of her book club recommendations. In addition, I love period pieces, so it struck a chord with me that this book would begin in the late 1800's and span a period of five generations. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and, honestly, I'm not a HUGE reader!! This book captivated me, tugged at my heart strings, and even made me cry. I would have preferred a slightly different ending (felt let down a just a tad), but am glad I read it and it's definitely one of my faves!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After I finished this book, I went right back and started it from the beginning again. It was painful and poignant, but just wonderfully written. The characters come alive. It reminded me of She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, the same rich reading. It does deal with some rough stuff, so if you are not up for that beware. Otherwise, you must read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Long after you're finished reading this book, the characters resonate in your mind. You think of them and their situations and discuss their foibles, human weaknesses and strengths with everybody else you know who's read the book. The plot, character, conflict and settings are meticulously developed and a joy to read. Excellent work for a first novel! All the students I've recommended this book to, who have used it for Independent Study, have loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I laud Anne-Marie MacDonald for a beautifully woven, finely crafted novel. I could read her prose forever. But what I cannot get past is the fact that this is typical of an Oprah pick: 500 pages of dysfunction with the requisite rape, incest and misery void of redemption. It seems the modern benchmark for literary greatness is who can pack the most suffering into one long story. Truly great novels leave me wanting more and are marked not by the suffering of the characters, but the degree to which they rise above their circumstances. There are writers who combine well-written novels (which includes careful editing that respects readers' own intelligence) with fully-developed characters in stories that are moving, but ultimately hopeful and inspiring.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Laced with Catholic practices and themes that besiege the everyday, common person who has been drenched in this religion, whether practicing or not. The author draws you in to the frailties of the human condition, without casting judgement on the perpetrator or the atrociously ,heinous act itself . Simultaneously you are left speechlessly , aghast , seeing through the eyes of both the perpetrator and victim .
TheLoon 7 months ago
I too found this book to be very well written but seriously shallow. I was eventually worn out by the running litany of modern "causes" that the author introduces into her story. As is almost required of the modern female feminist, there are the "evil white men" driving tragedy after tragedy, plunky women of all races and ethnicities trying to survive and love each other, racial issues by the score and "love" as only true response. By the time I got to the "shocking" climax that anyone could have seen by the middle of the book I was asking myself why I was still reading this book. And, of coarse, sexual identity issues had to be thrown in to boot. Yikes. If you want to read a liberal Bible of modern society this book is for you. Victimhood enshrined.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read for those who enjoy the drawn out inter generational drama!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. Nicely written story line about a Nova Scotia family coping with difficult issues.
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MetaChuck More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely amazing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book and great author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is simply breathtaking! Every character described so richly and each scene colorful and emotional in its own way...I could not put this novel down. In essence, this book is beautiful.
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