Review: After the Falls, Catherine Gildiner

Here are two recommendations to further your happiness:

1. Go read Too Close to the Falls. It is a lovely, touching, frequently laugh-out-loud funny memoir about Catherine Gildiner’s childhood in Lewiston, New York, and her friendship with her father’s delivery man, Roy. I cannot say enough good things about it. Toward the end, it gets quite a bit sadder, but the rest of the book is so wonderful that I did not really mind. Gildiner’s account of stabbing a classmate with a compass and being taken to a psychologist for evaluation is one of the funniest bits of life writing I have ever read.

2. If, having read Too Close to the Falls, you then feel you must find out what happened in Catherine Gildiner’s life subsequently, feel free to read After the Falls. Only do yourself a favor and don’t read Chapter 4. Really. I read Chapter 4 and now I am stuck with it in my brain forever. If you do not want to be made to feel nastily complicit in a group of dumb teenage boys taking sexual advantage of a dumb teenage girl in a really awful way, skip it. I have only your best interests at heart when I say: SKIP THAT CHAPTER. If you’re dead curious you can email me and I’ll tell you what’s in it. That will still be sad for your brain, but less upsetting than Catherine Gildiner’s polished, vivid prose. You’re welcome.

Catherine Gildiner’s lovely prose is a major bonus in Too Close to the Falls — every scene pops. In this one it just made me sad. Her descriptions of her family, and particularly her deteriorating relationship with her father, are often painful to read. I was so pleased that this book had been written, and so depressed while I was actually reading it. Gildiner’s skill as a writer is considerable. But I am far away from my Mumsy and Daddy (not to mention my Social and Indie Sisters and a whole slew of aunts and uncles), and I do not want to read about other people being mean to theirs. Or about other people being brave and tough because they need to be because their parents are ill and/or incapacitated.

In sum, I am not getting this for my mother for Christmas, as I initially thought I would. I will get her something else. Something better. A present even better than I thought After the Falls was going to be when I first heard of it. That tapping sound you can hear? Is my Christmas-gift-skills colors being nailed to the mast.

  • JoV

    Jenny, reply your comments about Wuthering Heights, check it out?

    http://bibliojunkie.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/jane-eyre-by-charlotte-bronte/

    • I’m excited! It’ll be funner with a reading buddy.

  • I am a big fan of memoir and this sounds like a must read. I’ll pay attention to your advice and remember to skim read Ch. 4 while holding the book at arm’s length. Oh, and I could squint, too.

    • Litlove, seriously, you should skip it. I know skimming sounds like it makes sense, but it’s really upsetting! Skip it. Read Too Close to the Falls instead.

  • I love your review, especially the warning. And now I’m off to buy a compass….

    • I meant the stabby kind, not the directional kind. Make purchases accordingly.

  • Mumsy

    I read that scene with the compass out loud to Daddy on a car trip until I was laughing so hard, I was spitting and sputtering and couldn’t get any more words out.

    When I read Too Close To The Falls, I remember thinking that she should have ended the memoir after Roy left. Because it was really all about Cathy and Roy. She writes beautifully, as you say, and it makes the shadows very dark and creepy, even when she is still making you laugh.

    • Oh, I wish I’d brought that book with me. I’m going to go to the library and get it this weekend or on Monday. I fancy the compass scene now, and the bits where she goes to see Dr. Small.

  • I hadn’t yet heard of these books, but did hear some mention about stabbing someone with a compass and then having to go to the psychologist ( I am now in a state of agitation wondering where I heard this!) Now I want to read these books, because as usual, your review was so enticing that I cannot ignore them.

    • Maybe you heard about it from some sort of promotional campaign for Too Close to the Falls, one of the best memoirs in all the land. 🙂 I think you’d like it!

  • Your tags are just fine. I wouldn’t worry about your tagging skills.

    • Hahaha, thanks, Care! 🙂 I’ll try not to.

  • I love your tags, especially when they mention Nathan Fillion.

    • Nathan Fillion cracks me up. I love it that he’s on TV every Monday. I wish this would happen with other Joss Whedon alums that I adore — you know, besides Nathan Fillion and Allyson Hannigan. Like Amy Acker! Why’s she not on TV all the time?

  • I’m with Care, nothing wrong with your tags.

    Hubby & I always watch Castle post original air time, so I miss out on the live tweeting. Sometimes when we’re watching I shout out “Oh! Oh! Nathan Fillion tweeted about that!” I don’t think hubby cares.

    • I didn’t know he tweeted regularly. Huh. As it turned out, my roommate came home and we talked about life and birthdays and stuff (her boyfriend gave her a Shake Weight as a joke), and I missed the show, and I don’t think he live-tweeted. Alas!

  • Your comment about After the Falls Ch. 4 reminds me of my experience reading Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club in college. There’s a detailed scene where young Mary is sexually abused by her male babysitter that had the whole class cringing when we came in to discuss it.

    • Oh my gosh, that sounds terrible. I’m kind of glad now that I never finished Liar’s Club, even though I have heard nice things about it.

  • Your tags are SO not losing touch!

    Too Close to the Falls sounds wonderful! About chapter 4 on After the Falls, I’m both scared to read it and too curious for my own good :S

    • Ana, I swear, I’ll just tell you what happens. You don’t want to hear it from Catherine Gildiner. ANYONE WHO DOES NOT WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS BECAUSE IT IS SO DISTURBING, STOP READING NOW. So basically, Cathy and her friend hide in the basement closet to see what her friend’s brothers and their friends do when they’re down there having their secret “fraternity”. And the boys call up a girl called Veronica and she comes over and shows them her boobs, and then Cathy’s friend’s brother starts taking off her clothes, and when she tries to pull her panties up he says “Veronica, I am your boyfriend and we are on a date,” and then ALL THE BOYS THERE have sex with her. Consecutively. It’s really upsetting.

  • If you and Mumsy are on the lookout for memoir for Christmas, I’ve just read and loved Nualo O’Faolain’s _Are You Somebody?_. (Might be even better as an audio book if read with a real Irish accent!)

    • I’ve never even heard of that! I’ll have to look out for that!

  • P.S. Thanks for the warning about _After the Falls_. Both are on my TBR list, but I’ve been a bit afraid of the too-much-information memoir. I’ve been ambivalent about picking them up, even though there was such great press for the first. I will now go ahead with _Close_ and stay away from _After_.

    • It’s not really the too-much-information memoir, not the way some memoirs are. But yes, go with Close and ignore After.

  • Nicki

    I think chapter 4 of “After The Falls” is a very very important chapter as it has obviously huge effects on Cathy, and the rest of her life. It just doesn’t make sense to leave it out. It’s terribly sad, but I am really glad she had the courage to put it in. Read it, I say. It happened.

    • I hear you. I just wish I’d never read it and that it didn’t now live in my brain forever. :/

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