I admit it. I know it’s shameful, but I often judge books by the cover, and the cover of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s book Fall on Your Knees drew me in. Reading the blurb on the back, the novel sounded like an interesting exploration of a family through several generations fraught with hidden sins and truths never spoken.
In a way, many of these assumptions were true. Ann-Marie MacDonald’s story centers on the Piper family who live on Cape Breton Island near Nova Scotia. MacDonald shifts in an out of first person with little rhyme or reason at times, yet the story is always compelling. Characters are never who MacDonald at first tells us they are and each person’s secrets propel the novel forward.
As a young man James Piper moves from his small town to nearby Sydney to tune pianos. There he encounters Materia Mahmoud, a girl in her early teens whose playfulness and exotic features bewitch him. The two are married, causing her parents to disown her, and soon James finds that he has made a mistake in marrying so young a girl.
As her belly grows with their first child, Materia becomes increasingly dull and James, who at first seemed to be one of our heroes, verbally abuses her and drives her further into herself. Seeing no way out of this problem James tries to conceal Materia and so begins a series of secrets that will haunt the family.
When their first child Kathleen is born James takes it upon himself to raise her. The beauty of this auburn haired child turns heads from a young age, including her father’s. Two more girls are born to the Pipers and while they are still young, Materia dies mysteriously.
Only the narrator knows the circumstances of her death, and so more secrets are incorporated into the family heritage, each one shaping the characters.
As James takes over complete care of his children, it becomes obvious that nothing is as it seems and that the sins of the father are indeed handed down from generation to generation. The characters seem incapable of tearing themselves away from their fate and that makes the novel as disturbing as it is compelling.
Nikki James reads Fall on Your Knees in this creative recording of the novel. James’s narration is one of the best audio book’s I have heard. She captures the tone of the novel with her clear, emotional reading that follows the author’s cues flawlessly. This audio book will definitely keep your attention and adds to the quality of the novel.