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Too Close to the Falls

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  2,559 Ratings  ·  365 Reviews
Heartbreaking and wicked: a memoir of  stunning beauty and remarkable grace. Improbable friendships and brushes with death. A schoolgirl affecting the course of aboriginal politics. Elvis and cocktails and Catholicism and the secrets buried deep beneath a place that may be another, undiscovered Love Canal – Lewiston, New York. Too Close to the Falls is an exquisite, haunti ...more
Paperback, 350 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by ECW Press (first published January 1st 1999)
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Aug 09, 2011 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
On the surface, Catherine Gildiner has written a "memoir" of growing up near Niagara Falls and her experiences as an overly precocious, conspicuously intelligent only child with a talent for athletics, philosophy, reading, and just about everything else, apparently. On another level, what we have here is an over-the-top sales pitch on what an unusual and extraordinary life young Catherine led.

When reading a memoir, I automatically assume that most of what the author writes is actually fiction.
Mar 18, 2013 Rosemary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone over 13 years old
Recommended to Rosemary by: Jan Tarasovic
Shelves: memoirs
Catherine Gildiner must have a photographic memory to have recreated scenes from her childhood as early as age 4 with such startling clarity. Her ability to recall conversations, gestures, sights, smells, and feelings brings the reader right into her small town by Niagra Falls, and into her childhood mind. Each character from her father and mother (I fell in love with her mother--a mother who referred to her daughter as "novel" when everyone else called her "strange."), her mother who allowed a ...more
Apr 23, 2008 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: David should read it.
This is a fast, easy read. I, too grew up in that part of the country (city of Niagara Falls, to be exact) a generation later. I also grew up Catholic. I read this mainly because I grew up there. I became slightly obsessed with where what she calls the Rainbow Inn, a restaurant on the edge of the Falls supposedly on the American side, actually was. I can ask my dad that one. Other than that, I have serious problems believing a lot of this. There were a few possible discrepancies in names, places ...more
Oct 09, 2009 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Catherine Gildiner was an amazing little girl. She was born in the mid 40's grew up in the 50's and 60's in a small town very near Niagra falls. She was smart, precocious, and a little high strung, so her family doctor suggested her father put her to work in the family's pharmacy....when she was four. She began making deliveries with her trusty sidekick Roy, who didn't know how to read, so she learned how to read, including maps. She knew much about the drugs they delivered, and about the people ...more
Nov 13, 2015 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Catherine Gildner's memoir of her childhood in a small town near Niagara Falls is an unusual story. It is honest, charming and truly memorable. She writes about growing up in the 50's, an only child and educated in a Catholic school by nuns. It was a captivating, easy, entertaining read. ( especially if you were educated by nuns).
I am looking forward to reading After The Falls!
Mar 04, 2011 Kerfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, I thought this was a novel. Then I thought: "another memoir by a spunky girl with an unusual family"--and, in a way, that was what it turned out to be. But also more, and better.

Cathy Gildiner's small upstate New York town upbringing was stultifyingly normal, or typical, or it tried its best to be. The veneer was patriotic, religious, insular, narrow-minded. There were Rules and Roles that were followed and not questioned. Add Catholic School and a precocious naivete to the mix,
May 01, 2011 Jdemartigny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be in the fiction section. If you do the math Cathy was coming to philosophical conclusions about family, life and religion at the age of 4. She was 5'7 at the age of 9. She also mentions she had been working in the drugstore for several years before entering kindergarten at the age of 5. Hmm. The family had a housekeeper but there was no food in the house. They sent a 9 year old to NYC without an adult chaperone. She was out making housecalls to prostitutes on Christmas eve. Sh ...more
Dec 25, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book ... a childhood as seen through a childs eyes.
Jan 12, 2016 Geneva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was great! It's the sort where I felt compelled to read big chunks of it out loud to whatever poor sap was in the room with me.
May 18, 2017 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun book, light and enjoyable. Found it in the discard bin at my local library and after just a few pages was hooked. Other reviewers had some concerns about the validity of some of the stories and I too had some disbelief about her age and ability to recall and reason as the episodes indicated but the writing was great and weather it is true memories or cobbled together stories did not detract from my great enjoyment of this early life history. Would recommend it, especially if you gr ...more
Apr 19, 2017 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this memoir! So unique and charming and full of memorable characters.
Penny McGill
Posting a review of Jeanette Walls most recent book reminded me of this book. Catherine Gildiner's story of growing up in a town that was "too close to the falls" is one of my all-time-favourite books and I have met so many people who agree and many that disagree. I had my husband read it to see if we could compare and he found the stories she tells to be too far-fetched and didn't like how it bounced around. I can see his point and might not think that Catherine Gildiner deserves any awards for ...more
Aban (Aby)
Apr 22, 2010 Aban (Aby) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: to all my friends
Recommended to Aban (Aby) by: Jerri Seniuk
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir of a very bright, ADHD, girl growing up in a small town near the Niagra Falls in the 1950's. In order to keep Cathy from getting into trouble, her father - the owner of a pharmacy - has her working in the shop from the age of about five years! Cathy loves the work and the companions she has there, especially Roy, a young black worker who befriends and protects her. She attends a Roman Catholic school and struggles hard to fit in. The memoir ends when Cathy is in ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gildiner's memoir of her very unusual childhood is vivid and hilarious. From the age of four she worked in her father's drug store in Niagara Falls, NY. Her best friends were the store employees, especially the delivery man, Roy, with whom she spent hours ferrying medicines to the locals and learning a lot of their secrets.

In her Catholic school the too-smart-for-her-own-good, hyperactive Cathy would try anything except studying. When the boy behind her wouldn't stop pulling her hair out, she s
Rena Jane
Jan 20, 2011 Rena Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. There must have been a lot of us in the 1950's who had unusual childhoods. This is one author, I could really relate to, because I, too, was raised in an adult world. I had no idea how to relate to children, and their kind of teasing was so different, and it seemed cruder and more cruel than adult teasing.

I, too, was taken on a delivery route with my father, although I don't remember that part very much. He carried mail to several small post offices in rural northern Montana.
Aug 15, 2013 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this memoir by Cathy Gildiner. She had a very different childhood because she was an only child with parents that were older. Her dad owned the local drug store in Lewiston, NY which was next to Niagara Falls. At the age of three Cathy was working in her Dad's store because she had so much energy and the local Doctor said she needed to be kept busy to stay out of trouble. Some of the things she experienced while delivering peoples medicine are very amusing. A black man named Roy ...more
Nov 16, 2012 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very mixed feelings on this one! I enjoyed the book (until the last part when it took a serious dive) but I do not believe it is really an accurate account of the author's life and shouldn't be listed as a autobiography. The dates of events do not match up (one example: she and Roy start delivering together when she is 4, Roy supposedly leaves when she is in 6th grade which would be 8 years at most but later she says she and Roy delivered meds to the Dupont girl for 12 years), the memories she s ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Marigold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I liked this book. I thought it was funny, and sad, and interesting, and I loved her parents! But in today's Helicopter Parenting world Cathy's parents would be considered near-neglectful. Today kids like Cathy are considered ADHD & given medication to make them conform to society & the need to sit still behind a desk for 8 hours a day from age 4 to age 18+. In the 1950s, they said "she's a busy and bossy child - give her a job." So when not in school, she went to work with her dad! Ther ...more
I loved the early parts of this memoir—the bright little girl and her adventures with Roy—they made a wonderful pair. Even though her upbringing was eccentric, it somehow worked. She was clever, imaginative, precocious and funny, and even though parts of it were a bit of a stretch, it really didn’t matter—it’s a fun, entertaining read. But when Roy left and Cathy moved into her teenage years, I no longer found her quite so charming and loveable. Her relationship with the salacious Miranda was th ...more
Badly Drawn Girl
Apr 22, 2010 Badly Drawn Girl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An absolutely delightful memoir that is broken down into separate essays. Catherine Gildiner was a one of kind child who took the world by the horns and made sure everyone noticed her. Bright, inquisitive, brave and a bit crazy, she would probably be labeled and medicated if she were a child today. Her memoir perfectly captures a unique childhood in a time when uniqueness wasn't necessarily rewarded. She was blessed with understanding parents and a close relationship with Roy, the man who delive
May 08, 2008 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was engaged in this book from page one. Catherine Gildiner wrote her memoir in such an innocent and intelligent beyond her years way, the reader feels as if they are shadowing her in every experience. Anyone growing up in the 50's will respond to her story with great affection. Catherine opens up to what was in her head and heart, and reveals a very honest and courageous little girl. So self confident, but not afraid to question herself and others. I loved her parents. Mother was a character - ...more
Jul 23, 2014 Ceegie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Cathy Gildiner is a fantastic writer. She knows how to move the reader. I laughed, a lot, and cried. Her childhood was hilarious, as well as quite touching. The people in her life came alive on the pages. Gildiner drew me In, to the point, that I felt like part of the family. I didn't want this book to end. I was happy that she has written two more books about her life. I greedily began reading the 2nd of her books the day after I finished the 1st book. I'm looking forward to ...more
May 06, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book for me, as I lived near Niagara Falls. Also worked with someone who met the author. However, I was just a tiny bit disappointed in the ending. However, not enough to be sorry that i read the book. It is usually the whole book I enjoy, not just the ending, and this was a very enjoyable book for me.
Kayla Crockett
this was an okay read. It reminded me why I struggle with memoirs sometimes....memory and perspective are a funny thing. Some very colorful characters that made it fun and I loved the setting -- Niagara, upstate New York and time period. But, too many unbelievable things that I couldn't reconcile in my mind drove me crazy.
Dec 04, 2013 Risa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very entertaining memoir of Catherine Gildiner between the ages of 4-10. Some truly funny stories and lessons learned at the same time. Although I gave it 3 stars I would recommend it for something light to read.
Jun 25, 2008 Iva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Catholic childhood in l950's Lewiston, NY. But no matter how many of these memoirs you have read, this one has the worst nuns, the largest cast of characters, and the best narrator. Really a top-notch memoir.
Chris McKinney
May 22, 2007 Chris McKinney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Catherine made me chuckle many times from the things she said and did. Although I find it hard to believe that her parents never really saw her as the little girl she was. This author is someone I'd love to meet!
Sarah Dawson
I read this because my parents - who were exactly Cathy's age but grew up on the Canadian side of the falls - said her stories reminded them a lot of their childhoods. There are some funny parts and I'm especially fond of her dry sense of humour.
Jane Mcneil
Jul 04, 2017 Jane Mcneil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful and interesting creative non-fiction book. Don't pick for accuracy or plausibility in a memoir. Read to experience life in the 1940's in a little town near Niagara Falls through the eyes of a young, clever, and insightful storyteller. I don't care if the author embellishes. I care if it entertains, and it did quite thoroughly for me!
Jul 21, 2017 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read; light, entertaining,
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Catherine has written two best selling memoirs. The first is called TOO CLOSE TO THE FALLS and was on the best seller's lists for two years. It is about working full time from the age of four.

Her next memoir AFTER THE FALLS covers her teenage and college years where she got involved in civil rights and was investigated by the FBI.

COMING ASHORE, her final memoir is coming out this fall. It is about
More about Catherine Gildiner...

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“What puzzled me was why I seemed to be so troubled by all these irregularities and exceptions to major rules while others blithely marched ahead.” 6 likes
“The problem with a small town is that when you don't buy into the powers that be there are very few other choices. It's like a play where there is only a "virtuous" lead, a villain, and bit players. Better to be the villain because you're not duped into believing you're in more than a play, and at least your name goes on the program.” 4 likes
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