I know this post should have gone up sooner since the debates for Canada Reads begin today… but I procrastinated reading Fall On Your Knees and procrastinating writing this review. Why did I procrastinate? Tammy kept saying, “It’s so depressing, I’ve put it in my basement and just want to forget it’s there.” Which made me not want to read a depressing book after finishing the delightful Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner.

I have to admit, yes it was a somber story, but it is quite brilliant writing. I enjoyed the characters, how honest they were, and how real they were. At times I felt the book dragged on, but by the end, I was fully satisfied. My favourite character is Mercedes because I think that she is an unsung hero of the family. I was also constantly in awe of how she maintains faith while questioning the ways of her God.

At the start of the 20th century, James Piper sets fire to his dead mother’s piano and heads out across Cape Breton Island to find a new place to live, eventually eloping with 13-year-old Materia Mahmoud, the daughter of wealthy, traditional Lebanese parents. And so, from early on, Ann-Marie MacDonald establishes some major themes: racial tension, isolation, passion and forbidden love, which will gradually lead to incest, death in childbirth, and even murder.

At the centre of this epic story is the nature of family love, beginning with the Piper sister who depend on one another for survival. Their development as characters — beautiful Kathleen, the promising diva; saintly Mercedes; Frances, the mischievous bad girl, who tries to bear the family’s burden; and disabled Lily, everyone’s favourite — forms the heart of the novel. And then there is James, their flawed father.

[From the publisher, Random House]

At our book club discussion we basically agreed that it was well written, depressing, and wasn’t going to win Canada Reads 2010. I know this sounds pessimistic, but honestly, Fall On Your Knees‘ somber subject matter is not for everyone. Ann-Marie MacDonald deals with incest, faith, murder, pregnancy, and racism. The book really crosses a number of terrains and comes out the other side.