I remember reading Fall on Your Knees in high school. It was recommended to me by a friend. She didn’t try to explain it, just pressed it into my hands and said, rather seriously, “You need to read this book. I think you would love it.” She was right on both accounts. It is a powerful story, and it has stayed with me.
Fall on Your Knees is an exploration of obsession and lust. It is a multigenerational story following the lives of the women of the Piper family, characters who are large, complex and drawn in cripplingly beautiful prose that lays bare their imperfections and heartbreak and will make you flinch as you read about how they suffer and overcome horrific experiences. The Pipers are a colorful collection of personalities, vastly different from each other but united by their strength and common tragedy. As a generational story focused on a family of resilient women, the book is evocative of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, though with more of a horizontal familial bond and less political discourse. There is also no magical realism, but the turbid waters and grey skies of Cape Breton Island, where the central characters live, give an ominous, almost ethereal quality to the events of the story, later broken by the buzz and brilliance of Jazz Age New York City, where Kathleen, the most ambitious of the family, aspires to become an opera singer and discovers a kind of love that the early 20th century could not understand. Her story, the most vivid and heartbreaking, I think, is also the key to the sorrow and mystery in this chronologically convoluted, dark and challenging read.
Fall on Your Knees is a heavy book; few taboos remain unexplored, evil often goes unpunished, and injustice rears its head again and again. But for all its darkness, it is not without hope. The strength, sacrifice and perseverance of these women, coupled with the love they feel for one another, is inspiring.
Like my own introduction to this beautiful book, I think it is best to leave my recommendation to a brief, earnest appeal to the reader to crack the spine and let it wash over you. Fall on Your Knees is so terribly lovely and complicated and dark that my words won’t capture it, you just have to experience it.