I must admit I’m cheating a bit weighing in on Fall on Your Knees, the next book in my Canada Reads lineup, since I actually read it almost 3 years ago. But I remember it pretty well.
Actually, as I said in my last post, that I can remember details about a book several years later is a very, very good sign.
Ann-Marie MacDonald has a very interesting writing style, that moves seamlessly between characters and perspectives in a way that could be catastrophically confusing but works quite well. She has a particular talent for writing children, with the strange lenses that they might see the world and the things happening around them. I always feel as though I never quite know what’s going on because everything comes filtered through characters’ perceptions, but that’s what makes this such an interesting read. I really feel like I know what the characters are thinking, feeling, and what’s motivating them to do what they do. And on the other hand, there are instances when you see the same scene from two perspectives at different points in the novel and you realize that you had it all wrong. There’s one scene in particular that I’m thinking of, which I don’t want to give away, but completely changed my outlook on these characters’ lives once I saw it through the eyes of one of the children. There are some elements of the story that are revisited and referenced throughout the course of the novel and each time is a revelation. That MacDonald can tell a story like that from so many angles at once, keenly aware that each bit of information the reader learns colours the rest of the narrative in different ways, is what makes this such a great book.
Now, that being said, I must make the inevitable comparison to The Way the Crow Flies, which I read a year or two before this one. Everything I’ve said in the above paragraph also holds true for both books, but on the whole I think The Way the Crow Flies was my favourite of the two. I liked the story there more, I think it had a wider variety of things going on while still being held together just as well, and it had a more well defined story arc that Fall on Your Knees lacked. It’s been longer since I read the former, but the plot still sticks quite well in my mind, whereas in the latter while I may remember characters and scenes I don’t remember the story. I actually remember being disappointed in Fall on Your Knees while reading it, since, though still brilliant, it didn’t live up to its predecessor.
But does that mean much in the context of Canada Reads? This book has enough competition already without being put up against others by the same author outside the contest. Part of me really wishes that The Way the Crow Flies was in this contest instead, and I can’t help but think that Fall on Your Knees shouldn’t win because of that, even though I know that doesn’t make much sense. I’m sure that as I listen to the debates, almost every argument about Fall on Your Knees will be about The Way the Crow Flies as they have so much in common.
So in the end, as irrational as it may be, I’m tempted to let myself be charmed by Nikolski and see this book voted out a bit sooner. But who knows. Maybe Good to a Fault will blow them all away. Stay tuned.