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Falling from Grace
     

Falling from Grace

4.0 1
by Ann McNichols, Jennifer Ann Daddio (Designed by)
 

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In a small Arkansas town in the 1930s, thirteen-year-old Cassie Hill's grief-stricken sister leaves town, her father becomes overly friendly with the new preacher's wife, and her Sunday School teacher causes trouble, but Cassie finds comfort in her new friendship with a quiet boy from Hungary.

Overview

In a small Arkansas town in the 1930s, thirteen-year-old Cassie Hill's grief-stricken sister leaves town, her father becomes overly friendly with the new preacher's wife, and her Sunday School teacher causes trouble, but Cassie finds comfort in her new friendship with a quiet boy from Hungary.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Cassie is a strong character, struggling to find her place in a town where she does not quite fit. . . . [H]er decision to be herself rather than let others influence her shows her triumph of spirit and will. With this dynamic novel, McNichols captures the essence of living in the rural South of the not-so-distant past.” —School Library Journal.

“Cassie's voice--sometimes naive, but often perceptive--delivers insights into the complexities of family life and the damage done by small-town gossips.” —Bulletin of the Ctr. for Children's Books

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A steely yet sensitive teen comes of age in tiny Prohibition-era Prosper, Ark., in this often promising first novel. As the story begins, the narrator, 13-year-old Cassie, is waiting for her parents to discover that her older sister, Adra, has just run away; meantime, she has to go to Sunday school, where she gets punished by the teacher for her unorthodox response to a question. Exiled from class, she helps her older brother, Jake, dye the water in the baptistery blue--and spies her father kissing the preacher's glamorous wife. McNichols juggles many plot lines: Adra's boyfriend has killed himself for reasons that emerge slowly, if vaguely; Adra's disappearance prompts nasty gossip; Cassie finds a boyfriend in the almost impossibly honorable Jan, son of a Hungarian immigrant family, and she defies her neighbors' bigotry and xenophobia to stand by him. The cast battles tragedy and cruelty, including a senseless death from bootleg moonshine and a dramatic dodge of a Klan attack. Not all the characters are onstage long enough for the impact of their struggles or suffering to hit home with readers, and Cassie's sudden embrace of a nemesis at the end is unconvincing and gratuitous. For the most part, however, Cassie proves a keen observer of the thorny, sometimes oppressive intricacies of small-town life and of family dynamics everywhere. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
Thirteen-year-old narrator Cassie Hill personifies an archetypal fall. Her innocent assumptions and misconceptions are replaced by knowledge and by truths she must reconcile. Her fall is substantial, representing much more than her dabbling in mischief, such as putting blue dye in the baptismal fount or talking about her brother, Jake, behind his back—albeit truthfully. Growing up in Prosper, Arkansas, in the 1930s meant growing up with rumor, prejudice, and insensitivity. Cassie awakens to her father's infidelity, her runaway sister's grief over a friend's suicide, and the town's prejudices toward an immigrant family from Hungary. She discovers the quiet desperation of a mother's loss, witnessing her homosexual teen's desperation as he is caught in a world of conformity. Cassie's narrative voice meanders in cumulative sentences with regional flavor and humor: "Jake is likely to join up with an outlaw gang when he's old enough, where he will fit right in, though Daddy thinks Jake might be the moon and stars and for his last birthday gave him a shot gun, which should be a great help establishing his outlaw career." In McNichols's deft prose, both moonshiners and outhouse cleaners receive fair treatment with rich characterization. Perhaps the relationship most skillfully developed is between Cassie and Jake—comrades, enemies, and saviors. The novel could be used by language arts/social studies students exploring small-town life in the early part of the twentieth century. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Walker, 192p. Ages 12 to15. Reviewer: Patti Sylvester Spencer VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
Children's Literature
This first novel from a short story writer and Arkansas native has memorable characters and an authentic setting in time, place, family and mindset. As the story opens, thirteen year old Cassie, her mother, father and two brothers still live at home in the small town of Prosper, Arkansas. The older daughter, Adra has just secretly left town following her boyfriend's suicide. The story that unfolds is a dramatic one that includes moonshine, the Ku Klux Klan, Hungarian immigrants, the Church, and Cassie's own coming of age. Problems of the magnitude presented here don't have easy solutions in real life but in 260 pages, there are enough satisfactory resolutions and band-aid type cures applied by caring people that readers can leave with a generally optimistic feeling. The quality of the characters is really outstanding. Cassie is genuinely caring and open to other people's feelings and points of view. Brother Jake, despite his wild trappings, has a conscience, a memory and a steadfastness that are unforgettable. Foreign-born Jan has a wisdom beyond his years and a strength underlying his pacifism that guide the others in their search for their own best selves. This is a novel that is not without literary problems, but is worth reading--even if just to meet these good people. 2000, Walker & Company,
KLIATT
This is a first novel, a skillfully told story about Cassie, who is growing up in Arkansas in the late 1920s. At 13, she is the youngest in a family of four children, and she starts her story when her rebellious older sister leaves home and her more obedient older brother elopes. She and Jake are left to try to sort out the new circumstances, with both of them questioning most things and getting into quite a bit of trouble. Their story begins on a boring Sunday School morning when Jake brings blue dye to stick into the baptismal pool. As Cassie helps him along, she overhears her father in the next room behaving badly with the beautiful young preacher's wife. This will probably keep most YA readers turning the pages, and it is just the beginning. As the family is trying to adjust to all these upsetting occurrences, Cassie makes a new friend with a Gypsy boy who is new to the town. This boy is named Jan and he plays the fiddle beautifully; he also endures a lot of teasing and torment because he is different. In fact, the KKK in town is disturbed by this family's presence. Still, he is handsome, and because he is seen as Cassie's boyfriend, the other girls start treating her with a bit more respect than they have in the past. The climactic moment involves Jake's friend getting drunk on some bad whiskey, which causes alcohol poisoning and his tragic death—even though Jan and Jake and Cassie try their best to help him. This is a story of a small town in the Bible Belt in another time. Cassie and Jake's rebellious adventures, their brutally honest take on life in their family and in their town—and McNichols' sure grasp of the look and the sound of this time and place—make this asuccessful YA novel. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Walker, 164p, $16.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-"Sunday weighs on a person like a heavy coat in March," begins Cassie, 13, the narrator of this distinguished first novel set in the late 1920s. Her sister Audra left on a Sunday, escaping the gossip that runs rife in the small town of Prosper, AR, after her boyfriend killed himself. Even more disturbing, Cassie catches her father calling the minister's wife "darling" as they discuss missing their weekly rendezvous. Added to her turmoil is her budding friendship with a Hungarian immigrant boy. She finds herself becoming Jan's protector and only friend, especially when her own brother, Jake, wants to fight him, both for being foreign and for liking her. When Jan helps Jake try to save his friend from the effects of drinking bad alcohol, the two boys declare a truce and together with Cassie rescue the town drunk from an unwarranted attack by the Ku Klux Klan. Cassie is a strong character, struggling to find her place in a town where she does not quite fit and trying to understand the behavior of the adults around her. Her changing relationships provide a portrait of the turmoil faced by many girls growing up and her decision to be herself rather than let others influence her shows her triumph of spirit and will. With this dynamic novel, McNichols captures the essence of living in the rural South of the not-so-distant past.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A tried and trite theme for coming-of-age novels, Cassie's loss of innocence in a southern town during the '20s fails to deliver a convincing reality despite some affecting understated prose and engaging characters. While abetting her brother Jake's prank of putting blue dye in the baptismal pool, Cassie overhears her father's romantic encounter with the new preacher's wife. Cassie's sister, Adra, has left town that morning on the sly, due to the rumors about her relationship with a boy who has committed suicide. As Cassie copes with these betrayals, she finds herself becoming friends with newcomer Jan, two years older and newly arrived from Hungary. A death of another boy, which is caused by drinking homemade whiskey, the revelations regarding Adra's failed romance, and a Ku Klux Klan attack on an old man provide plenty of action. The aura of unreality is especially evident in the complete absence of people of color, and from the father's sudden realization of the value of his family in a conveniently overheard conversation. Hints at Adra's boyfriend's homosexuality as being at the root of his suicide seem to be superimposed melodrama when readers are totally unconnected to Adra or the boy. It's this unevenness of narrative that lacks connection and detail to give a distinct sense of time and place that hamper McNichols's debut from fulfilling the promise of Cassie's sharp voice and the subtlety of the writing. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802787507
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
10/01/2000
Pages:
164
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 15 Years

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Falling from Grace 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This author's first book makes one think of writers like Faulkner, Welty, Erdrich,and Morrisson - writers who established a sense of place that permeated the fabric of the narratives they wove. McNichol's characters are inseperable from their geographical inhabitance. The way they talk, the way they live, the way they think and relate - this is all combined for a very entertaining read that never lets the reader forget where they are. Jan, the anomaly, makes the reader see the authors intention on sense of place even more vividly. A fantastic first young adult novel.