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After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties

After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties

4.6 6
by Catherine Gildiner

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The vivid and touching sequel to the bestselling memoir Too Close to the Falls.

It's 1960 and twelve-year-old Cathy McClure has just been thrown out of Catholic school for-among other transgressions-filling the holy water fount with vodka. In the hopes of giving Cathy a fresh start away from their small town, the McClures leave


The vivid and touching sequel to the bestselling memoir Too Close to the Falls.

It's 1960 and twelve-year-old Cathy McClure has just been thrown out of Catholic school for-among other transgressions-filling the holy water fount with vodka. In the hopes of giving Cathy a fresh start away from their small town, the McClures leave behind Niagara Falls and the family pharmacy to start over in suburban Buffalo. But life in a subdivision and a school filled with "pubescent cheddar" holds little appeal for a girl who began working at four and smoking at nine. As the quaint world of 1950s America recedes into history, Cathy dives headfirst into the 1960s. Along the way, she adopts many personas with gusto-vandal, HoJo hostess, FBI suspect, civil rights demonstrator- but when tragedy strikes at home, Cathy must take on her most challenging role yet.

As candid and compelling as Mary Karr's The Liars' Club and Jeanette Walls's The Glass Castle, After the Falls is an irresistible account of one girl's comingof-age during a tumultuous era and the moving tale of a rebellious spirit learning what it means to be a daughter.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At age 12, Gildiner and her family moved from their Niagara Falls home to a Buffalo suburb, leaving behind a family business, smalltown contentment, and the rebellious childhood chronicled in her first memoir, Too Close to the Falls. While her uprooted parents struggle to adjust, Gildiner stumbles in making new friends and edging into puberty. Her restlessness and a fundamentally outspoken and argumentative nature regularly catapult her further than simple teenage trouble, and she frequently fails at the standard American girlhood, often with comic results. The conflicts between the narrator's individuality and conformity propel her into her first relationship at the same time that the seismic shifts in American society, culture, and politics hit home with ever-increasing force. On the page as in life, comedy, tragedy, and elegy live right on top of each other, and as with most remarkable memoirs, the straightforward, honest voice and perspective are steady even in the most painful moments. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews

This sequel toToo Close to the Falls (2001) picks up the story in 1960 with the willful, exuberant 12-year-old author entering adolescence and exiting small-town Lewiston, N.Y., for a new life in a Buffalo suburb.

A former clinical psychologist, Gildiner is also a gifted storyteller. With verve, she relates how she cleverly manipulated her way into the popular girls' clique in high school, how she nearly burned down the doughnut shop where she worked and how her plan to paint the neighborhood lawn jockeys white went awry. She also writes about her disappointment when bad acne kept her, a talented athlete, from making the cheerleading team. In one grim episode, she and a girlfriend spied on a fraternity meeting, becoming stunned witnesses to a gang rape. In the second half of the book, the author chronicles her college years in Ohio—coping with roommates, making friends and encountering sororities, which at first she was determined to join, but which she soon characterized as bastions of a social conservatism that she abhorred. This experience and her observations of racial discrimination politicized the author. Gildiner's summer job with a state welfare department opened her eyes to a malfunctioning system, and her romantic relationship with a somewhat elusive black poet and her work with civil rights brought her into contact with the black power movement. Disillusionment followed, and a scary brush with the FBI prompted her to accept a professor's offer to help her get away from Ohio and into the University of Oxford. Throughout, the author examines her fraught relationship with her father, to whom she had been close as a child. It was his criticism of her flirtatious behavior with a boy that shaped her skeptical attitude toward boys throughout her high-school years and probably later still. But when her father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and began to lose his mind, Gildiner stepped in to protect him from himself. The author's relationship with her mother, a superficially conforming prefeminist, seems sympathetic but somewhat unclear.

Entertaining portrait of a resourceful, smart, offbeat girl and the decade of upheaval in which she came of age.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
971 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Catherine Gildiner is a clinical psychologist and writer. She lives in Toronto.

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After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
Catherine was a handful while growing up and finding herself but the one thing she never lacked was spirit. I really enjoyed learning about her life (which, if you ask me, resembles a daytime soap opera with all it's twists and intriguing happenings). I have to give this book five stars!
Twink More than 1 year ago
Well, After the Falls was just as addicting as the first. For many reasons (Cathy being one of them) she and her family have left Lewison and relocated to Buffalo, NY. The suburb they settle in is completely different than the small town atmosphere of their former home. The house is smaller, her mother no longer has her social clubs and church and her research seems to no longer interest her. Her father is no longer a front line pharmacist and seems to miss the respect that went with his former position in Lewiston. Everything has changed.... Cathy analyzes the lay of the land and plots her plan to fit in - becoming a cheerleader, buying the right clothes, borrowing the family car late at night etc. But 'fitting in' is not in her nature. Although her parents have moved to the Amherst subdivision so that she can be enrolled in a well thought of academic high school, academics aren't a priority. "My father never said a word about my dismal school record in terms of scholastics or behaviour. He never mentioned the call from the guidance counsellor, Mr. Myshenko, who'd said I was a 'born leader who had gone astray.' I only found out about it when he threatened to call Dad again. When I asked Mr. Myshenko why he had called my father instead of my mother, he said that whenever they called my home and asked the woman who answered if she was the mother of Cathy McClure, she said no." Cathy is still questioning why things are and what she can do to change them. Having worked so closely with Roy, the black delivery driver for most of her childhood, Cathy is stunned when racism openly appears in her new surroundings. One response? The Black Lawn Jockey Elimination squadron is born. The drive for social justice continues when Cathy attends Ohio University. It is the 60's and the civil rights movement is in full swing. Cathy falls in love with a young black poet and together they become deeply involved in the fight for equality. She also discovers the joy in learning, finally embracing academics. After the Falls focuses on much of the turbulent 1960's - civil rights, war, sex, drugs and politics, But, Cathy's relationship with her father plays an integral part of her life during this period. Since the move from Lewiston, their interactions have been adversarial. When her father falls ill, she is forced to re evaluate their relationship. After the Falls is darker than Too Close to the Falls, dealing with heavier issues. Some of them are disturbing, but all are thought provoking, handled with humour, candor and openness. Gildiner paints a picture of a turbulent time in history as well as allowing us to share in her coming of age during this time. Her writing style is effortless, almost reading as fiction. Highly, highly recommended. I can't wait to read the third memoir.
Mabas10 More than 1 year ago
The humor peaked my interest. The story made me fall in love with the book. Highly recommended.
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