Monday, November 8, 2010

Memoir Monday: After the Falls

It's been a while since I've posted a Memoir Monday. This is an interesting one to jump back in with. Catherine Gildiner takes us to relive some very personal and public experiences that molded her into the author and person she is today. After the Falls: Coming of age in the Sixties by Catherine Gildiner follows a girl's journey from the simplicity of childhood to the complexities of adulthood. It's the follow up to her first memoir, Too Close to the Falls (New York Times bestseller).

Life for Cathy was idyllic in the mist of Niagara Falls. She was happy working in her dad's pharmacy, making deliveries with Roy, causing havoc in school. Life was simple. Then they moved to Buffalo. Catherine was 12 and her life was turned upside down. She had to figure out who she was in a new town, in a new school, and did this with same anger and angst that most kids carry through adolescence. Her father seemed to be suffering from his own identity crisis and her mother remained detached from it all.

There were many pivotal moments that propelled Cathy from a child to an adult. She witnessed the cold and abusive loss of innocence of a girl, grieved with the country over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, enjoyed friendships that literally rose out of ashes and had to turn from others that went up in smoke. But nothing forced adulthood on her faster and more cruelly than finding out her father's behavior changes were caused by a brain tumor. His short term memory was nonexistent and it was slowly eating away at his long term memories. She had spent so much time being angry or embarrassed that when his illness was revealed, it was too late to apologize. He couldn't understand day to day that he was sick. Her mother pulled further out of touch, unable to cope, leaving Cathy to take control of her family's welfare.

Eventually Cathy's mother pulled herself together and pushed her to go to college. Through her writing she meets her first love, Laurie. With him she learns to expand her vocabulary and thinking. Together they champion for the Civil Rights Movement. He would also break her heart when his double life is revealed.

These are just some of the experiences Cathy shares in this moving memoir. I'm always amazed when writers are able to open themselves up so completely on paper for the world to read. Catherine Gildiner did not hold back. This is a powerful read.

Now, as I like to do in my Memoir Mondays, I'll talk about what this memoir taught me about writing.

Write Honestly: There were parts in this that I'm sure were hard to write, those are the parts that made it so powerful. Those moments of guilt, embarrassment, fear, grief are what grab the readers and helps them to celebrate the lighter, happier moments along with the memoir writer (or fictional character).

Expand vocabulary: If I come across a word I don't know the meaning of I write it down and look it up. Here are some of the new words that caught my eye while reading After the Falls.

1. anachronism - something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time.

2. tickey-boo - term used to describe an event that is proceeding quickly.

3. idioglossia - Speech or other vocalizations unique to an individual and generally incomprehensible to others.

I'd love to hear some of the new or strange words you've come across in your reading lately.

After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties by Catherine Gildiner is now on sale at Amazon , Amazon.CA , , Mobipocket eBook , and more.

Thanks for stopping by.

Kristin : )

** One lucky commenter can win a copy of After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties. Simply leave a comment to be entered. This giveaway is limited to USA and Canada readers, but all comments are welcome to discuss the book or to share new words.


  1. Kristin

    Thanks for the review. I was so touched that you said I wrote honestly. That meant a lot.

  2. Oh, I can't think of new words I've learned lately, but I have to say having a Kindle means I can look them up right then and there, so is great for vocabulary :)

    I read this book a couple of weeks ago and really loved it, although it was both funny and at times incredibly sad. I loved Too Close to the Falls too, and understand there's a third one coming up, which I'm really looking forward to.