Lily stays sitting. “Frances. What if Ambrose is the Devil?” “He’s not the Devil. I know who the Devil is and it isn’t Ambrose.” “Who’s the Devil?” Frances crouches down as if she were talking to Trixie. “That’s something I’ll never tell you, Lily, no matter how old you get to be, because the Devil is shy. It makes him angry when someone recognizes him, so once they do the Devil gets after them. And I don’t want the Devil to get after you.” “Is the Devil after you?” “Yes.”
~ Fall on Your Knees; Ann-Marie MacDonald
Every life that has ever been lived has had a companion that travels along the path unseen; wanted or unwanted. Fall on Your Knees by Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald is not for the faint of heart, nor the casual reader. The story takes the reader into depths of humanity that are smothering and dark, yet in perfect harmony lifts them into the light once again.
The irony of the story about the Piper family is that it begins in the late 1890s and ends in the fullness of the Industrial Age of the 20s. Yet, it could take place in all its glory even today with events surrounding child marriage, racism, religiosity, family secrets, forbidden love, and a host of others in this 500+ page compilation of the human experience.
The book is filled with literal metaphors, as well as figurative. As we delve into the lives of the three Piper sisters, and how all things came to be in the end, we discover that the devil is in the details.
Over the years of my life, I have seen the devil on more than one occasion. As a child I watched him prattle on at the end of the tongues of many a gossip, encouraging others to believe the lies he portrayed as truth. Ah yes, the devil has made liars of many a man and woman. I have seen him revel in the throes of rage between two races that clash time and time again. He is still reveling in this today. I have seen his haughtiness in the eyes of an addict. Look deep into the soulless depths of a far-gone addict’s eyes and there you will see him triumphant. I have borne witness to the hopelessness of a child who stands along with its parent at the corners of Hunger and Want. There is nothing greater to disparage the soul of a parent than to feel as though you have failed innocence.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
In Fall on Your Knees, the idea of a physical devil lurking somewhere in the mists of Cape Breton, or perhaps trolling along with Kathleen in New York City is an ever present, yet indiscernible theme.
The only question left with the reader at the end of this story is “Who is the devil?” Hint: It’s a figurative question.
Through literature we learn to live, to love, and to conquer!