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.