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Falling

by Anne Simpson

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literary, sagas
list price: $32.99
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
category: Fiction
published: 2008
ISBN:9780771080906
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Description

On a late summer day along the shores of Nova Scotia, a young woman makes a mistake that will claim her life, while at the other end of the beach her brother, Damian, is unaware that she is drowning. Beginning with this shattering event, Anne Simpson’s mesmerizing novel unfolds in unexpected ways.

A year after the accident, Damian and his mother, Ingrid, travel to Niagara Falls to scatter Lisa’s ashes and to visit Ingrid’s estranged brother, once a famous daredevil of the Falls, now blind, and his mentally disabled son. But old wounds and new misunderstandings soon collide. Damian, burdened by guilt, finds solace in an intense relationship with a girl he first glimpses in a tattoo parlour. A runaway with dreams of New York City, Jasmine has her own reasons for wanting to escape the past. Meanwhile, Ingrid, having reluctantly returned to her childhood home, finds herself at odds with her brother and besieged by memories. As the summer progresses, each of them becomes caught in the pull of the past — until an act of recklessness shocks them into a new course for the future.

In startling, luminous language, Anne Simpson captures both the natural beauty and tawdry eccentricity of Niagara Falls, while evoking the elemental bonds that tie us to the ones we love. By turns uncompromising and heartbreakingly tender, Falling is a riveting story of ordinary people poised on the knife-edge of grief and hope.
With this, her second novel, Anne Simpson proves herself to be one of our most striking and original writers.

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Excerpt

The girl on the four-­wheeler turned sharply at the top of the bank and felt the vehicle drop heavily beneath her. There was no time to correct the mistake, though she tried, and the four-­wheeler fell, toppling to one side, slowly, all four hundred and eighty-­eight pounds of it, as it slid down the bank, landing in the stream and trapping her body underneath. Her cry could have been that of an Arctic tern, high above, its wings an open pair of scissors against the blue.

Struggling to free herself, she could only bring her head above water briefly before her exertions wedged the vehicle more firmly in the thick, wet sand.

Damian, she shrieked, raising her head out of the water a second time.

Panicking, she moved her head wildly from side to side, choking, trying to get air, which made her take in water. She heard an overwhelming beating in her ears.

Her body was splayed in the stream. She struggled several more times, with less vigour, and then she ­didn’t move. Though she was face down, one of her hands lay with the palm up so the water moved over her fingertips.

At the other end of the beach, where the rocks piled and tumbled like upended shelves and tables, Damian was dozing. He’d been swimming, and his bathing suit was still damp. The sun was warm on his body — it showed his pelvic bones in relief, touched his features with light — and it had made him sleepy. Each time he exhaled, there was the suggestion of a snore. He ­hadn’t slept well the night before, and now dreams came fleetingly.

He might have been carved in stone, except for the almost imperceptible movement of his chest, rising and falling. A fly landed lightly on his leg, and he reached out a hand to brush it off. Disconnected images flickered in and out of his consciousness until he heard the distant cry of a bird and opened his eyes. After a while he got up, and stretched to one side, the other side. He had a man’s body, with a broad, tanned chest, though his blond hair was as fine and sleek as a girl’s, and would have fallen past his shoulders if it had been loose. He picked up his towel and stood at the edge of the rocks.

The sea glinted and moved and shifted before him, becoming a hard, steely colour where it met the softer edge of sky. A roll of waves fell gently and retreated, leaving the sand darkened, velvety brown, as they drew away. The tides of the Northumberland Strait ­weren’t as high as those of the Fundy, and seemed almost lazy by comparison, and although the water was as warm as that off the coast of the Carolinas, the jellyfish had already come and gone: there were no more of their purplish, nearly trans­lucent bodies, some as large as purses, to be seen on the beach. The light was beginning to slant across the land in early morning and late evening, which meant autumn was coming.

Far off, so far as to be dreamlike, was a line of blue hills on the western coast of Cape Breton. To the north were the headlands of Cape George, but Ballantyne’s Cove was beyond the nearest cliff, with its reddened, exposed soils. On the water, some distance out, and apparently equidistant between the coasts on either side, was a white sailboat, but its sails were furled. There was no wind. The sky was clear, devoid of any clouds, and it promised to be hot all day.

Damian got up and moved over the rocks with a kind of animal grace, dropping from this shelf of stone to that one, over a small crevice where some broken beer bottles lay, and at the edge of the rocks he leapt down to the sand below. He paused and ran his hand over initials carved in the stone: Hey man! It’s­­­ 15°C — Oct. 21, 2000. J + E.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw something yellow, sticking up out of the sand. He ­couldn’t figure it out for a moment. It was all wrong. Lisa’s kayak. But why —

Lisa, he shouted.

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Contributor notes

Anne Simpson’s first novel, Canterbury Beach, was shortlisted for the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. She is the author of three books of poetry, Light Falls Through You, winner of the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Atlantic Poetry Prize; Loop, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry; and, most recently, Quick. She has also been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. Anne Simpson lives in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

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Editorial Review

Praise for Falling
“This is a tender and wise novel; a remarkable story of love lost, and then found.”
— David Bergen

“In concise, beautiful language, Anne Simpson’s Falling captures a family in free-fall after tragedy strikes. Against the quiet loveliness of a Nova Scotian landscape, and the endless, brutal roar of Niagara Falls, Simpson’s characters struggle to regain their balance, caught between the poles of acceptance and rage, hope and despair. We fall with them and surface, shaken, transformed. Tough, heartbreaking, astute, this novel confronts our deepest fears, and teaches us how to survive.”
— Beth Powning

“The novel moves forward much like the rushing river that ends up as the tumbling waterfall, unstoppable, a force of nature, like life itself. . . . The novel deserves the highest praise: Simpson has brought together character, plot, language and metaphor with both subtlety and intensity. The result is a potent mix, one that might well result in a Giller award to stand beside her Griffin Prize.”
National Post

“Simpson's skill is such that the sum total here is far greater than the parts. We don't quite realize the force of what's built up until near the end, when we suddenly find ourselves fully invested in this compelling web of characters.”
Toronto Star

“Profound and sharply observed. . . . Simpson has the poet’s art of paying close attention to details, which take on added fierceness and luminosity [in this novel]. . . . We see, with increasing admiration and wonder, the forces [her characters] are able draw on, as they tumble through the waterfall, in order to survive.”
Globe and Mail
“It’s rare to come across a current writer whose characters not only make you think, but are described in such sensual language that the words become as arousing as any visual image.”
Edmonton Journal

“Beautifully written and engrossing. . . .”
Winnipeg Sun

“A pleasure to read.” — Montreal Gazette

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About the Author

Anne Simpson

Anne Simpson is one of Canada's rising stars. Her story "Dreaming Snow" won the Journey Prize, and her first novel, Canterbury Beach, was a finalist for the Chapters/Robertson Davies Prize and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. Her first poetry collection, Light Falls Through You, won the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the Gerald Lampert Award and was a finalist for the Pat Lowther Award; her second, collection was Loop. After spending a year as writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, she has returned to her home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
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