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Fall on Your Knees

by

Fall on Your Knees Cover

ISBN13: 9780743237185
ISBN10: 0743237188
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

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Excerpt

Silent Pictures

THEY'RE ALL DEAD NOW.

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

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

pbenson76, October 20, 2014 (view all comments by pbenson76)
This is one of my most favorite books. It's haunting, beautiful and disturbing all at once and it has never quite left my brain since reading it many years ago. It's not often I can say that about any book I've read, but this one fits the bill.
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alseadog, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by alseadog)
Fall On Your Knees is a family saga which will keep you up at night wanting to read more and more. Wonderfully developed characters and a great plot will keep your attention. Try it, you won't be sorry!
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Della, January 6, 2012 (view all comments by Della)
This book won't be everybody's cup of tea--it's a bit morbid. But I love these generational sagas about immigrants coming to the new world(in this case Cape Breton, Nova Scotia), raising families, starting businesses, fighting wars, all the struggles of life. The reader finds out wahat happens in the first few pages, but has to read to see how the characters get there, so it works. This isn't a really recent book but was on my top 10 favorites list of 2011 because I read it in 2011.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743237185
Author:
MacDonald, Ann-Marie
Publisher:
Touchstone Books
Location:
New York, NY
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Family
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Sagas
Subject:
Sisters
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Family - Nova Scotia - Cape Breton Island
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
B102
Series:
Oprah's Book Club (Paperback)
Series Volume:
[no. 70-68]
Publication Date:
January 2002
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
512
Dimensions:
8 x 5.25 in 14.035 oz

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Featured Titles » Miscellaneous Award Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » Lesbian Fiction
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Fall on Your Knees Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 512 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743237185 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Beautiful? this big, bold, epic shocker of a novel reads as if John Irving met Joyce Carol Oates. It is history told with a thumping, complex narrative? a host of colourful characters and a great big bow to psychology? Fall On Your Knees is the work of a big talent. It's a wild ride."
"Review" by , "[MacDonald is] a first-rate novelist....[She] paints a Cape Breton landscape steeped in human emotion ...She has found the language of the heart that runs below everyday discourse....There is no resisting this story."
"Review" by , "Ann-Marie MacDonald — one of Canada's most talented actors and playwrights — has provided us with yet another aspect of a talent that has no limits." —
"Review" by , "Brilliant...Profoundly and refreshingly different....MacDonald has constructed a plot worthy of Victor Hugo...A standout."
"Review" by , "MacDonald is a master of exciting story-telling, of suspense and surprise."
"Synopsis" by , A bestseller in Canada, this riveting family saga takes readers from Cape Breton Island to the battlefields of World War I to New York City's jazz scene--and into the lives, and guilty secrets, of four remarkable sisters.
"Synopsis" by , The Piper family is steeped in secrets, lies, and unspoken truths. At the eye of the storm is one secret that threatens to shake their lives — even destroy them.

Set on stormy Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia, Fall on Your Knees is an internationally acclaimed multigenerational saga that chronicles the lives of four unforgettable sisters. Theirs is a world filled with driving ambition, inescapable family bonds, and forbidden love.

Compellingly written, by turns menacingly dark and hilariously funny, this is an epic tale of five generations of sin, guilt, and redemption.

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