Too Close to the Falls: A Memoir

Paperback | October 1, 1999

byCatherine Gildiner

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Heartbreaking and wicked: a memoir of  stunning beauty and remarkable grace. Improbable friendships and brushes with death. A schoolgirl affecting the course of aboriginal politics. Elvis and cocktails and Catholicism and the secrets buried deep beneath a place that may be another, undiscovered Love Canal – Lewiston, New York. Too Close to the Falls is an exquisite, haunting return, through time and memory, to the heart of Catherine Gildiner’s childhood.

And what a childhood it was …

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From Our Editors

Born in Lewiston, New York, psychologist Catherine Gildiner had an extraordinary childhood. Too Close to the Falls: A Memoir details her amazing experiences in lucid and touching prose, a book that`s as heartbreaking as it is deliciously wicked. From her unlikely friendships to several brushes with death, Gildiner explores her past w...

From the Publisher

Heartbreaking and wicked: a memoir of  stunning beauty and remarkable grace. Improbable friendships and brushes with death. A schoolgirl affecting the course of aboriginal politics. Elvis and cocktails and Catholicism and the secrets buried deep beneath a place that may be another, undiscovered Love Canal – Lewiston, New York. Too Clos...

Cathering Gildiner has a Ph.D. in psychology and has been in private, clinical practice for seventeen years. She writes a psychological advice column for Chatelaine Magazine and has written numerous newspaper articles. She is also the author of the novel Seduction (Random House). She lives in Toronto.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:350 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 1 inPublished:October 1, 1999Publisher:ECW PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1550223968

ISBN - 13:9781550223965

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Too close to the falls An entertaining read you don't want to put down. The characters seem like close friends-family, as each chapter unfolds another day in the life of. Can't wait to read the sequel!
Date published: 2014-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Read Since To Kill a Mockingbird 5plus plus I bought the book because I am from Niagara Falls. I told my parents about it and my dad already read it because my aunt who lives in Texas also read it and sent it to him. He loved it. It is one of those books that lingers for awhile. I cannot say enough about how incredible this read was. Not just because I am from Niagara Falls but because of how Catherine writes. It's a beautiful story. She uses fictional history but you there is a lot of non fiction in it. She really makes you appreciate the beauty of Niagara Falls and the land along with so much more. The era and the description of the area and life and times are so true to life. This woman has an amazing ability to do her homework because there are many techncial terms involved in the making of the generation stations and height of the flow of the river etc. Truly put together to make a warm, memorable love story not just about people but about land. She also mentions that she is trying to conserve skyline above the Falls and she is on the committee to help save Loretto Academy from destruction. This book wowed me. I am in love with this couple and will always be a river girl and proud of it no matter where I live in Canada.
Date published: 2010-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gorgeous Read One of my favorite books. This book is full of humor and wisdom. I found myself laughing out loud. I didn't want it to end.
Date published: 2008-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous read Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very interesting childhood memories. Excellently written - keeps you wanting more. I would read this author again.
Date published: 2007-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Book This is an amazing book. The writing is wonderful, the characters seem so real you feel you know them and you get a real feel for the place and time. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2007-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! This is a humourous recollection of a young Catherine Gildiners life. It was written incredibly well and is full of the innocence only a little girl can possess. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves to read.
Date published: 2006-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Loved this Book!" "Too Close To The Falls" is a wonderful, humerous and touching memoir about a young girl growing up in a small town in the 50's. I would recommend giving this book as a gift as it does not include any distasteful content and is just a great read. I was hooked from the first few pages and could not put it down!
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Precocious & Delightful The constricted eye of childhood is widely expanded in Catherine Gildiner's delightful account of a precocious young girl's growing up years in the 1950's. Although set in Lewiston, New York, anyone who grew up anywhere in North American and recalls or experienced the repression of that decade will easily relate to Gildiner's well crafted insights. Who is "seen" and who is "not seen" by the mainstream community delineates in detail the implications of bias, marginalization and prejudice. Cathy McClure's never fully discloses the depths of her insights about the colourful local characters to her eccentric mother and benevolent father; nor does the school system help her understand life around her. Rather, she learns far more about the truth of world from her adventures outside of classroom than she would ever have learned within the hallowed walls of school. Moreover, the curriculum becomes one of her own design, often humourous and always provocative, augmented by her own interpr
Date published: 2003-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Too wonderful to miss Dr. Catherine Gildiner's book is a magical, hilarious and very touching memoir of a most unusual childhood in 1950s America. Her understanding of American life from the perspective of a very bright and highly energetic Lewiston child is refreshing. This is one book that should be on everyone's gift list for the laughter we all need so much at this time in history.
Date published: 2003-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Too Close To The Falls This is an excellent book. I found myself remembering events from my childhood. I am a recently retired special education teacher and I feel for sure that I would have been diagnosed ADD or ADHD.
Date published: 2001-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Too Good to Miss Catherine Gildiner's "Too Close to the Falls" is much more than a memoir. Instead, it is a series of stories meant as much for the reader to identify with as it is for the author to share. From tales of meeting Marilyn Munroe, to stories of sledding down the Hill from Hell, Gildiner uses quick and clever writing to reveal, then analyze the adventures of her youth. Interesting characters remembered with grace and clarity, challenge the reader to recant, then refocus on those who shaped their own lives. It is a book that is both thought provoking as well as enlightening, guaranteed to put a wistful smile on the reader's face, as forgotten memories resurface. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2000-04-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better Than Angela's Ashes I found this memoir a hoot. The characters were delightful eccentrics, moving through their little world with confidence and comedy. The dump lady, Warty, deserves a book of her own. Carps about detail and verisimilitude from another reviewer seem to ignore the difference between memoir and biography. I was reading Angela's Ashes at the time and had to labor at turning the pages; this book was a chocolate box of fun. True, the ending could not maintain the spirit, but Frank had the same problem. More, please.
Date published: 2000-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Too Close to the Falls This book is totally hilarious from an adult perspective but very serious from the young Cathy McClure's perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2000-03-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Far From the Facts A memoir, by definition and design, contains much that is subjective and "creative". Nevertheless, flaws both in fact and chronology strain the bounds of credulity of this offering. Many episodes seem pure invention, notably the one where the author and a young, sexy priest share a cigarette tryst while perched precariously on a rocky premonitory overhanging the Falls. The only cleric I remember was Father Campbell, a portly old rector who stirred none to passion. Numerous rather naive misspellings of character's names (Sam Noise for the correct Noyes, Mother Agnes, for the correct Agnese), suggest that much of this memoir is an updated version of Gildiner's adolescent diaries, which would go a long way to explaining the memoir's blend of half-fact and girlish fantasy. Even as "hot poop" the memoir falls short. Few of Lewiston's really eccentric characters are mentioned. On one point we do agree: Mother Agnese was by anyone's definition an inspirational character. If Gildiner can restrict herself to the domain of verifiable facts, a biography of this remarkable nun might be a suitable "penance" for this flawed first effort. As for "Too Close to the Falls", it's "Too Far from the Facts" for at least one fellow Lewistonian to swallow.
Date published: 2000-01-06

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Over half a century ago I grew up in Lewiston, a small town in western New York, a few miles north of Niagara Falls on the Canadian border. As the Falls can be seen from the Canadian and American sides from different perspectives, so can Lewiston. It is a sleepy town, protected from the rest of the world geographically, nestled at the bottom of the steep shale Niagara Escarpment on one side and the Niagara River on the other. The river’s appearance, however, is deceptive. While it seems calm, rarely making waves, it has deadly whirlpools swirling on its surface which can suck anything into their vortices in seconds.My father, a pharmacist, owned a drugstore in the nearby honeymoon capital of Niagara Falls. My mother, a math teacher by training rather than inclination, was an active participant in the historical society. Lewiston actually had a few historical claims to fame, which my mother eagerly hyped. The word cocktail was invented there, Charles Dickens stayed overnight at the Frontier House, the local inn, and Lafayette gave a speech from a balcony on the main street. Our home, which had thirteen trees in the yard that were planted when there were thirteen states, was used to billet soldiers in the War of 1812. It was called into action by history yet again for the Underground Railroad to smuggle slaves across the Niagara River to freedom in Canada.My parents longed for a child for many years; however, when they were not blessed, they gracefully settled into an orderly life of community service. Then I unexpectedly arrived, the only child of suddenly bewildered older, conservative, devoutly Catholic parents.I seem to have been “born eccentric” — a phrase my mother uttered frequently as a way of absolving herself of responsibility. By today’s standards I would have been labelled with attention deficit disorder, a hyperactive child born with some adrenal problem that made her more prone to rough–and–tumble play than was normal for a girl. Fortunately I was born fifty years ago and simply called “busy” and “bossy,” the possessor of an Irish temper.I was at the hub of the town because I worked in my father’s drugstore from the age of four. This was not exploitive child labour but rather what the town pediatrician prescribed. When my mother explained to him that I had gone over the top of the playground swings making a 360–degree loop and had been knocked unconscious twice, had to be removed from a cherry tree the previous summer by the fire department, done Ed Sullivan imitations for money at Helms’s Dry Goods Store, all before I’d hit kindergarten, Dr. Laughton dutifully wrote down all this information, laid down his clipboard with certainty, and said that I had worms and needed Fletcher’s Castoria. His fallback position (in case when I was dewormed no hyperactive worms crept from any orifice) was for me to burn off my energy by working at manual labour in my father’s store. He explained that we all had metronomes inside our bodies and mine was simply ticking faster than most; I had to do more work than others to burn it off.Being in the full–time workforce at four gave me a unique perspective on life, and I was exposed to situations I later realized were unusual for a child. For over ten years I never once had a meal at home, and that included Christmas. I worked and went to restaurants and delivered everything from band–aids to morphine in the Niagara Frontier. I had to tell people whether makeup looked good or bad, point out what cough medicines had sedatives, count and bottle pills. I also had to sound as though I knew what I was talking about in order to pull it off. I was surrounded by adults, and my peer group became my coworkers at the store.My father worked behind a counter which had a glass separating it from the rest of the store. He and the other pharmacists wore starched white shirts which buttoned on the side with “McCLURE’S DRUGS” monogrammed in red above the pocket. The rest of us wore plastic ink guards in our breast pockets which had printed in script letters “McClure’s has free delivery.” (The word delivery had wheels and a forward slant.) I worked there full–time when I was four and five and I suspected that when I went to school the next year I would work a split shift from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. and then again after school until closing time at 10:00 p.m. Of course I would always work full–time on Saturday and Sunday when my mother did her important work with the historical board. I restocked the candy and makeup counters, loaded the newspaper racks, and replenished the supplies of magazines and comics. I read the comics aloud in different voices, jumped out of the pay–phone booth as Superman and acted out Brenda Starr “in her ruthless search for truth,” and every morning at 6:00 a.m. I equipped the outdoor newsstand of blue wood with its tiered layers with the Niagara Falls Gazette.My parents were removed from the hurly–burly of my everyday existence. My father was my employer, and I called him “boss,” which is what everyone else called him. My mother provided no rules nor did she ever make a meal, nor did I have brothers or sisters to offer me any normal childlike role models. While other four–year–olds spent their time behind fences at home with their moms and dads, stuck in their own backyards making pretend cakes in hot metal sandboxes or going to stagnant events like girls’ birthday parties where you sat motionless as the birthday girl opened her presents and then you waited in line to stick a pin into a wall while blindfolded, hoping it would hit the rear end of a jackass, I was out doing really exciting work. I spent my time in the workforce delivering prescriptions with Roy, my coworker.One thing about a drugstore: it’s a great leveller. Everyone from the rich to the poor needs prescriptions and it was my job to deliver them. Roy, the driver, and I, the assistant who read the road maps and prescription labels, were dogged as we plowed through snowstorms and ice jams to make our deliveries. The job took us into mansions on the Niagara Escarpment, to the home of Dupont, who invented nylon, to deliver hypodermic needles to a new doctor on the block, Dr. Jonas Salk, an upstart who thought he had a cure for polio, to Marilyn Monroe on the set of Niagara, to the poor Indians on the Tuscarora reservation, and to Warty, who lived in a refrigerator box in the town dump. The people we delivered to felt like my “family,” and my soulmate in this experience was Roy.

From Our Editors

Born in Lewiston, New York, psychologist Catherine Gildiner had an extraordinary childhood. Too Close to the Falls: A Memoir details her amazing experiences in lucid and touching prose, a book that`s as heartbreaking as it is deliciously wicked. From her unlikely friendships to several brushes with death, Gildiner explores her past with verve, charm and tender fondness. Fans of the memoir genre won`t want to miss this eminently enjoyable read, penned with a deft touch and a sharp eye for human poignancy.