From Our Editors
Ann-Marie MacDonald's heroine, Frances Piper,
joins Margaret Laurence's Hagar Shipley and Lucy Maud Montgomery's
Anne as one of the most fascinating and multifaceted female
characters in Canadian fiction. This epic novel was the winner of
the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel and the Globe and
Mail Editors' Choice and Notable Book of the Year Award.
Fall On Your Knees is a complex narrative
about family secrets and the deeply buried events, memories and
motivations behind human relationships. It was also shortlisted for
the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award.
From the Publisher
"What a wild ride - I couldn't turn the pages fast enough," Oprah
Winfrey told her viewers as she announced Fall on Your
Knees as her February 2002 Book Club selection. Set
largely in a Cape Breton coal mining community called New
Waterford, ranging through four generations, Ann-Marie MacDonald's
dark, insightful and hilarious first novel focuses on the Piper
sisters and their troubled relationship with their father, James.
Winner of the 1997 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book,
it was a national bestseller in Canada for two years, and it has
been translated into 17 languages.
At the start of the 20th century, James Piper sets fire to his dead
mother's piano and heads out across Cape Breton Island to find a
new place to live, eventually eloping with 13-year-old Materia
Mahmoud, the daughter of wealthy, traditional Lebanese parents. And
so, from early on, Ann-Marie MacDonald establishes some major
themes: racial tension, isolation, passion and forbidden love,
which will gradually lead to incest, death in childbirth, and even
murder. At the centre of this epic story is the nature of family
love, beginning with the Piper sister who depend on one another for
survival. Their development as characters - beautiful Kathleen, the
promising diva; saintly Mercedes; Frances, the mischievous bad
girl, who tries to bear the family's burden; and disabled Lily,
everyone's favourite - forms the heart of the novel. And then there
is James, their flawed father.
Moving from Cape Breton Island to the battlefields of World War I,
to Harlem in New York's Jazz Age and the Depression, the tense and
enthralling plot of Fall on Your Knees contains
love, pain, death, joy, and triumph. The structure of the narrative
is multi-faceted, richly layered, and shifts back and forth through
time as it approaches the story from different angles, "giving it a
mythic quality that allows dark, half buried secrets to be
gracefully and chillingly revealed" (The New York Times Book
Review). As the details of the labyrinthine plot are pulled
together, the question of whether it is possible to escape one's
family history gradually raises itself.
The book's epigraph, taken from Wuthering Heights,
seems appropriate to a novel concerned with the different, often
violent, forms that love can take. On the inexorable journey
towards tragedy we encounter dark yet vivid images of neglect and
violence, yet the novel radiates an unquenchable life-force, and
yet the novel radiates an unquenchable life-force, shimmering with
emotional depth, sensual with virtuoso descriptions of the power of
music. It is a saga haunted by ghosts and saints, religious
fanaticism and magic. MacDonald gives the most ordinary lives
extraordinarily dramatic dimensions.
The Sunday Times wrote, "It is the unpredictability of
this huge book that is its greatest joy." With allusions ranging
from Hollywood stars to religious tracts, Fall on Your
Knees simmers with vibrancy and crackling, effervescent,
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Ann-Marie MacDonald was born in West Germany and spent the first
few years of her life on a Canadian air force station near Baden
Baden. Her father was an officer in the RCAF and the family was
posted numerous times.
She attended one year at Carleton University, Ottawa, studying
languages and Classics. She went to the National Theatre School of
Canada in Montreal where she trained as an actor, graduating from
the program in 1980. She moved to Toronto where she began an acting
career. She soon became involved in creating original Canadian work
in a number of contexts: collective creation, collaboration and
solo writing. The work always combined theatrical innovation,
politics and entertainment. She worked as an independent artist,
with Nightwood Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille as her principal
theatre "homes." Her seminal works include the collective creation
This is For You, Anna, and the multi-episodic Nancy
Drew: Clue in the Fast Lane. Goodnight Desdemona (Good
Morning Juliet) was MacDonald's first solo-authored
She continued to work as an actor in theatres across the country
and in many independent films, including I've Heard the
Mermaids Singing, Where the Spirit Lives and
Better Than Chocolate. As well, she guest-starred on
numerous television series, most recently Made in Canada.
MacDonald was last on stage in the spring of 2001 when she starred
in a sold-out production of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning
Juliet) at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto. Currently,
MacDonald is host of the CBC series Life and Times.
Her more recent work for theatre includes the play The Arab's
Mouth, the libretto for the chamber opera Nigredo
Hotel, the collectively created The Attic, The Pearls and
Three Fine Girls in which she also performed, and, most
recently, the book and lyrics for the musical comedy Anything
MacDonald's work as an actor and writer has been honoured with a
number of awards, including the Governor General's Award, the
Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Canadian Authors' Association
Award, the Dartmouth Award, the Gemini Award, the Chalmers Award
and the Dora Mavor Moore Award.
Fall on Your Knees was MacDonald's first novel and
is available from Vintage Canada. She lives in Toronto with her
partner, her daughter and two dogs.
From the Trade Paperback edition.