“Falling Angels” by Barbara Gowdy

After you read this novel, you’ll be grateful for your parents, no matter how many times you mumbled, “I hate you” under your breath when they did something that bothered you; trust me. Barbara Gowdy, one of my all time favourite authors, is known for covering very taboo subjects …. exhibit a: her short story, “We So Seldom Look On Love,” a story about a necrophile who only loves men that are dead. Falling Angels is no different … with the exception that no one has sex with dead bodies.

This novel, which is very beautifully written, follows the lives of Norma, Lou, and Sandy, three sisters born in the 50s to crazy parents, to put it lightly. The novel starts in the year 1969 with the suicide of the girls’ mother and backtracks 10 years to 1959 when the girls were young and innocent. Each chapter continues with the next year until the funeral in 1969.

The reason I say you’ll be thankful for your parents is because after you read Falling Angels you’ll know what bad parenting is … actually, I should say, you’ll know what terrible parenting is. The mother, who after throwing or dropping (it’s not certain) her son into the depths of Niagara Falls, turns to alcohol as a friend and decides that sleeping on the couch and watching TV and drinking “coffee” (whiskey in a mug) is the life she was meant to live. Her husband, the girls’ father works during the day, drinks at night, and beats his kids when he doesn’t have a lover on the side.

Imagine having to live in a self-made bomb shelter for two weeks with your alcoholic parents and only dirty dish water to drink and on top of that getting your first period and having to use dish rags as pads and when those run out, having to pick them out of the trash, washing them in dish water, hanging them to dry, and reusing them again. Why take a vacation to Disney World, when you have an adventure under ground in your own backyard, right?

The stories get crazier than this, though that’s the one that stuck out the most to me.

The novel, from 1959 to 1969, tells the story about how Norma, Lou, and Sandy’s lives were shaped by their parents’ actions. I’m sure you have a few ideas, but I won’t spoil them here. It really is a great read, and although many of the events are shocking, it’s worth a read, not only for the amazing writing, but even just to appreciate your parents.

Pick up a copy today!


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