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Champion athlete Perdita Felicien on becoming a public advocate for Fall on Your Knees

When I was approached about Canada Reads, I was a bit nervous at first. Not because it wouldn't be amazing to be a part of such a great event, of course it would. The issue was, as much as I enjoy reading, I have never had to defend a book choice of mine to anyone. Ever.

In fact, I'm that passenger on the plane sitting beside you who boastingly flashes my book cover your way: "See what I'm reading this entire 18-hour flight to Toyko? Yup, your gossip mag has nothing on this."

So I can promote a book by taking it everywhere, reading it anywhere and being a promoter in that silent kind of way. But to advocate for a book out loud? Against people? Under a literary spotlight? Gulp.

Don't get me wrong, I love spotlights. But I'm more comfortable, I don't know, under athletic ones.

What changed my mind, you ask? No doubt it was after reading Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. I was surprised that this book hadn't been selected for Canada Reads — it was a gold mine for any potential panelist. CBC, sign me up!

I was hooked from the very first page, when the author sets the tone by telling you, "They are all dead now." I had to read on. Who is dead? What happened to them? Could they be saved?

The initial appeal for me was that, as in the book, there are four sisters in my own family, and we are super close. I think of the four of us as silly, loyal and passionate about our bond. (In the photo above, I'm with my sister Hildy.) Qualities that can also be attributed to the Piper sisters in Fall on Your Knees. But as I read on, I quickly realized the Pipers and the Felicien sisters had very little in common.

And yes, I am thankful for this.

I was gripped by how real this novel is to itself and to each character. I did not always agree with the choices made, and was often heard gasping or shrieking with laughter by a friend or family member in earshot. Which would prompt me to have to state that I wasn't mad, the book made me do it.

After a short explanation of the scene, that person would chuckle too or make a funny face, which I knew meant they were judging the character. And I would say that unless you are immersed in the world that this book creates, you don't know the characters and won't understand their actions. Ann-Marie MacDonald does such a beautiful job of exposing every facet of a character's being to her audience — one gets a vivid look at who they are to their core. I found this to be intense and intimate all throughout the book, even leaving me breathless at times.

With such rich honesty, I didn't find myself being critical of these people, as much as I saw some characters as who they were: flawed, sympathetic, damaged. Yet another reason why I had to pick this book — it is complex and explores very universal themes. With the Pipers we learn what we already know, but sometimes forget: nobody and no family is perfect.

But personally I find a pinch of satisfaction (and is that relief?) that the Piper family is undoubtedly less perfect than my own.

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