Conquering forbidden love and generating the fragile links that exist between family members, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s ‘Fall on Your Knees’ uncovers the power of the Piper family — four sisters dealing with their troubled father.
MacDonald portrays each scene with great detail, generating a personal reaction to each character and decision. Despite the adequacy of her descriptions, the overall depressing tone of the book takes away from the content.
Knowing the history of their father James, the four sisters must learn to love him despite his flaws. He eloped with their mother Materia when she was a teenager. When they married, Materia was exiled from her family, a reaction that proved detrimental to her psychologically.
The anger and inhibitions Materia feels towards James, as well as the family that develops, are passed on to her daughters. Each must forge their increasingly abnormal relationship with James.
The story behind James’ decision to enlist in World War I pushes the plot of the novel to unforeseen levels, once again focusing on the odd relationships formed and the effect on the family.
The character development is crucial to the emotion of the story. Each character, from the seemingly magically gifted Lily, to Frances, the delinquent, forms a part of the family that makes each member crucial to the overall health of the whole family.
The two other sisters, Kathleen, a gifted singer, and Mercedes, the mother figure for the girls, work together with Frances and Lily to form a unique understanding of life developed and dependent upon with each new twist.
MacDonald explores the intense realities the girls must deal with —- Frances wanting to take on the family’s responsibilities, Kathleen’s wish to go to New York to pursue singing and their father leaving for World War I.
The development of these roles helps define five generations who have lived on the same island, with the same secrets and intertwined lives.
MacDonald plays with magic and religion, incorporating each into the daily lives of the sisters. Religion plays a key role, as it helps Mercedes, as well as other characters, deal with the traumas they’re experiencing. However, religion also helps to cover up realistic events between the father and daughters, such as incest and adultery.
Every possible detriment that could befall a family hits the Pipers hard. Inferences and underlying hardships make this book one of extreme compassion, making the reader pity the characters as well as hope for their redemption.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at email@example.com.