Friday, October 29, 2010

Too Close to the Falls - Catherine Gildiner

Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner is a title that I've had recommended to me many times (most notably by resident guest blogger Julia who also reviewed the book), but just hadn't gotten around to. Boy, I wish I'd picked it up sooner!

Too Close to the Falls is a memoir - the story of Catherine's unusual childhood growing up in Lewiston, New York - close to Niagara Falls.

When the family doctor tells her parents that "we all had metronomes inside our bodies and mine was simply ticking faster then most; I had to do more work than other to burn it off", the solution is to put Cathy to work at her father's pharmacy - at four years old.  She stocks shelves, sells newspapers, and works with the delivery driver, Roy. Roy has never learned to read, so it is Cathy who reads the addresses, maps and the magazines they both enjoy. I think I enjoyed the stories with Roy the most - he played an important role in Cathy's life.

Every meal for the McClures was eaten in a restaurant. Every last one - there was nothing in the fridge at home and Mrs. McClure did not cook or bake.
 "She simply refused to participate in what was expected." "Mother was convinced that it was important never to learn to cook or type or you'd be requested to do both against your will forever."
Her parents never argued, rarely disciplined their child, if at all, and let Cathy make her own choices and accept the consequences of her actions. And it is her actions that had me flipping pages late into the night. She is inquisitive, fearless and attacks everything with great gusto.

When her family is one of the first to get a television, young Cathy is quite enamored, not quite understanding that John Cameron Swayzee is not just talking to her alone. The Indian test pattern becomes her confidant until she has the truth pointed out.
"The Indian was like the priest in confession, the big brother, the always present Dad. Finally, he was someone who never criticized. As he faded from the screen that day and was replaced in my mind as a mere test pattern, I lost one of the few people who knew me."
The town of Lewiston seen through the eyes of Cathy is fascinating. Her memories are at times hilarious, sad and but thought provoking.
"Since I wasn't offered a clear game plan at home,I was a sponge absorbing human behaviour wherever I went.That's why the people of the town were so important to me - I studied them for clues."
An absolutely riveting read, one that had me laughing out loud, nodding my head and looking at some subjects in a different light. One of the best memoirs I've read.

 Too Close to the Falls ends when Cathy is 12. BUT there is a sequel - After the Falls. Watch for my review on Tues, Nov 2nd and your chance to win a copy on Wed. Nov 3 as Cathy stops in for a Q&A.


bermudaonion said...

I just read After the Falls, the follow up to this one and was just fascinated by it. I want to go back and read this one now.

Anonymous said...

I really want to read this novel... especially since I'm heading to Niagara Falls tonight for the evening :)

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great book....Niagara Falls has always been at the top of the list for beauty!

Mystica said...

I really like this. Now to track it down.

Anonymous said...

This sounds fantastic Luanne. I am not much for memoirs, but this sounds like it will be quite enjoyable and a little bit quirky. Thanks!

avisannschild said...

I love reading memoirs and this one sounds fantastic!

Unknown said...

I had no idea that After the Falls was a sequel! Too Close to the Falls sounds like a captivating story about family life and Catherine's childhood. I find the various ways children are raised and the differences in family life endlessly fascinating. It sounds like this memoir won't disappoint me!
Thanks for a terrific review!
~ Amy