Tuesday, November 2, 2010

After the Falls - Catherine Gildiner

If you missed Friday's post - I reviewed Catherine Gildiner's first memoir Too Close to the Falls - you know how much I was looking forward to reading the next book in her planned trilogy of memoirs.

Well, After the Falls was just as addicting as the first. For many reasons (Cathy being one of them) she and her family have left Lewison and relocated to Buffalo, NY. The suburb they settle in is completely different than the small town atmosphere of their former home. The house is smaller, her mother no longer has her social clubs and church and her research seems to no longer interest her. Her father is no longer a front line pharmacist and seems to miss the respect that went with his former position in Lewiston. Everything has changed....

Cathy analyzes the lay of the land and plots her plan to fit in - becoming a cheerleader, buying the right clothes, borrowing the family car late at night etc. But 'fitting in' is not in her nature. Although her parents have moved to the Amherst subdivision so that she can be enrolled in a well thought of academic high school, academics aren't a priority.
"My father never said a word about my dismal school record in terms of scholastics or behaviour. He never mentioned the call from the guidance counsellor, Mr. Myshenko, who'd said I was a 'born leader who had gone astray.' I only found out about it when he threatened to call Dad again. When I asked Mr. Myshenko why he had called my father instead of my mother, he said that whenever they called my home and asked the woman who answered if she was the mother of Cathy McClure, she said no."
Cathy is still questioning why things are and what she can do to change them. Having worked so closely with Roy, the black delivery driver for most of her childhood, Cathy is stunned when racism openly appears in her new surroundings. One response? The Black Lawn Jockey Elimination squadron is born. The drive for social justice continues when Cathy attends Ohio University. It is the 60's and the civil rights movement is in full swing. Cathy  falls in love with a young black poet and together they become deeply involved in the fight for equality. She also discovers the joy in learning, finally embracing academics.

After the Falls focuses on much of the turbulent 1960's - civil rights, war, sex, drugs and politics, But, Cathy's relationship with her father plays an integral part of her life during this period. Since the move from Lewiston, their interactions have been adversarial. When her father falls ill, she is forced to re evaluate their relationship.

After the Falls is darker than Too Close to the Falls, dealing with heavier issues. Some of them are disturbing, but all are thought provoking, handled with humour, candor and openness. Gildiner paints a picture of a turbulent time in history as well as allowing us to share in her coming of age during this time. Her writing style is effortless, almost reading as fiction. Highly, highly recommended. I can't wait to read the third memoir.

Read an excerpt of After the Falls.

Make sure you stop by tomorrow for some entertaining Q&A with Cathy Gildiner AND your chance to enter to win a copy of After the Falls.


bermudaonion said...

I really liked this book a lot, too - Gildiner's writing just hooked me from the start. I want to go back and read Too Close to the Falls now.

avisannschild said...

These memoirs sound great! I must admit, though, that I didn't like her novel, Seduction all that much...