Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald


“She’s no lady. Her songs are all unbelievably unhappy or lewd. It’s called Blues. She sings about sore feet, sexual relations, baked goods, killing your lover, being broke, men called Daddy, women who dress like men, working, praying for rain. Jail and trains. Whiskey and morphine. She tells stories between verses and everyone in the place shouts out how true it all is.”

My kobo library is absolutely chock-a-block full of Canadian literature.  Two reasons why: one, because I love it, and two, because the cheap bastards at Indigo and Chapters won’t put any other ebooks on sale it seems.  I’ve realized that reading through my list this year for Bookstravaganza there is not a single piece of Canadian literature.  I may have not picked any Canadian literature (not on purpose, accidentally I suppose) if my Mongolian friend hadn’t picked out the text.

Fall on Your Knees is a novel set in Eastern, Maritime Canada, following four generations of the Piper family beginning in the end of the 19th century and continuing into the 20th.  Beginning in an ill-fated start as James Piper flees his hometown and family, and elopes with the 13 year old Lebanese girl Materia Mahmoud.  The products of this doomed relationship are four sisters: almost like Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women yet with far darker, more complex characters.

Fall on Your Knees is a rather famous contemporary Canadian novel.  It’s Ann-Marie MacDonald’s first novel, and lucky her, it won many awards, was a finalist in CBC’s Canada Reads contest, and was even named to Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club.  Already I see parallels between it and Beloved, besides Oprah.  They are each tangled, twisted stories of tragedy, of womanhood, and of family.  And yet Beloved seems so intrinsically American.  And Fall on Your Knees so very Canadian in ways as a Canadian I feel are so difficult to explain.  Let me say when I think of the archetype of a classic Canadian novel, I think of either a strongly Catholic or Protestant family, on the east coast or on the prairies, confronted with multiculturalism, haunted by family secrets, and always chock-full of description of the natural scenery.  This is a beautiful story, but it felt like I had read it before.

I mentioned before my Mongolian friend Munk picked this book when I asked if he would read for me.  I have a funny story about Munk – we met at the International Student House, and the first night we talked I mentioned I had a Mongolian friend from the U of A; as I described my friend Dulguun more and more a sly smile sprung to Munk’s face and he asked if it was possibly the same Dulguun he was in a film club with back in Mongolia.  Small world!  I wasn’t present when Munk recorded this for me, sadly, but as I listen to it I am reminded by his serene nature, and what a perfect fit for this opening passage.  And I’m glad it is such a small world after all.

Books Read: 14


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