Too Close to the Falls
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Too Close to the Falls

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,723 ratings  ·  271 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, hauntin...more
Paperback, 350 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by ECW Press (first published January 1st 1999)
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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
Apr 14, 2013 Rosemary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Oct 18, 2008 Lisa rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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,...more
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....more
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
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
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
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...more
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
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
Badly Drawn Girl

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...more
Memory is a funny thing. Did I attend Game Six of the 1975 World Series, when Red Sox player Carlton Fisk hit that homer that just barely made it's way to the correct side of the foul pole ? No, I did not. Would I write in my hypothetical memoir of my childhood that I was actually there, instead of asleep on my parent's sofa while the game was on ? Maybe, maybe not. I get the impression that maybe, maybe, if given the choice Gildiner would decide to write that she was at that famous World Series...more
Steven Brown
This book was recommended to me by a friend for its comic aspects, and comic it is, but I find it even more memorable for its poignant episodes and psychological insights. At times I was a bit frustrated by time jumps in the narrative, feeling that surely the author must be skipping over other events of interest - but who am I (who barely remembers being 6 years old) to make that judgment? It's just the sort of book that makes you greedy for more.

The author is very careful to explain that this...more
Chris McKinney
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed it. Unfortunately I read the second book in the series before this one but still it was very good. It definitely brought back some memories of that era.
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
I wouldn't even give this book one star were I able to give it fewer, but OK I'll give it one star if only for the one chapter that redeems it from the fire. The author AND the editor did a horrendous job on this book. I found so many incongruities that it was totally distracting. She claims that she was "working" at her father's drugstore at 4 years of age reading maps and directing the driver of the delivery truck. All of this because her mother was never home and had mental problems, however,...more
Rena Jane
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....more
Aban (Aby)
Apr 22, 2010 Aban (Aby) rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Sheila Woofter
Another book club selection.

"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, haunting return, through time and memory, to the heart of Catherine Gildiner’s childhood.

And what a ch...more
AS I STARTED: I love memoirs. I started this one last night after reading Before Night Falls, and I think this one is also going to be an enjoyable read in a much different way. The story is about a young girl growing up in Niagara Falls. I haven't read too much, but so far she has talked about what it was like working full time in her father's drug store at the age of four (she was a very active child and the doctors told her parents to keep her as busy as possible), her fun and lively friendsh...more
I love memoirs!!! And not a lot of them are any good but I can't resist reading something and knowing that it's true. I came across this one because my husband is a big fan of Rush and his favorite drummer Neil Peart is an avid reader and reviewed this book. ANyway, long story short this book KICKED ASS!
Told through the eyes of Cathy Mclure, a very independent sarcastic inquiring youngster who was working part time at 4 years old at her fathers pharmacy in upstate NY right near Niagra Falls. She...more
Too Close to the Falls is my latest book club read. My book club typically picks some good books and I consider it being by a Canadian author a bonus.

The story takes place in a small town on the American side of Niagara Falls and follows the (apparently) real-life exploits of the author as a child. I found much of the memoir to be unbelievable and bordering on egotistical. I tend to like memoirs to be insightful with realization and acceptance of the past. Any self reflection in the book is from...more
Lydia Presley
Original review posted here.

I’m really torn on how to write a review on this for one simple reason: this book is labeled and, according to the author, is a memoir. That means non-fiction, truths as told from the memories of the person writing the book. However, as a non-fiction book, it was.. outlandishly unbelievable.

Now, as a fictional book (or a book that is mostly fiction, or non-fiction events taken and made more sensational through fiction), the book was a hoot. I enjoyed it quite a bit! B...more
Why haven't I read this sooner!?
I was captivated by this story and the strength and bewilderment of the protagonist. It reminded me of Jeannette Wall's memoir "the glass castle"...
My favourite line was "never learn to type or cook, that way you'll never be forced to do anything you don't want to do."
I want to cross the border and check out old Lewiston now. A great read with a a lot of soul.
“Although Catherine Gildiner didn't grow up dirt-poor in Ireland, or communing with gophers on the Depression-era Prairie, her tale of life as an eccentric, middle-class Catholic school girl in 1950s Lewiston, N.Y., is no less memorably and skillfully told than [Angela's Ashes and Who Has Seen the Wind?].… a revealing and vivid portrait of small-town America around the 1950s.… Anyone who ever was, or has, a child considered different in some way will enjoy this book. The author is among those wh...more
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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
More about Catherine Gildiner...
After the Falls Seduction Coming Ashore: A Memoir

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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.” 3 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.” 3 likes
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