Summary and book reviews of Niagra Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken

Niagra Falls All Over Again

By Elizabeth McCracken

Niagra Falls All Over Again
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2001,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2002,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

By turns graceful and knowing, funny and moving, Niagara Falls All Over Again is the latest masterwork by National Book Award finalist and author of The Giant's House, Elizabeth McCracken.

Spanning the waning years of vaudeville and the golden age of Hollywood, Niagara Falls All Over Again chronicles a flawed, passionate friendship over thirty years, weaving a powerful story of family and love, grief and loss. In it, McCracken introduces her most singular and affecting hero: Mose Sharp --- son, brother, husband, father, friend ... and straight man to the fat guy in baggy pants who utterly transforms his life.

To the paying public, Mose Sharp was the arch, colorless half of the comedy team Carter and Sharp. To his partner, he was charmed and charming, a confirmed bachelor who never failed at love and romance. To his father and sisters, Mose was a prodigal son. And in his own heart and soul, he would always be a boy who once had a chance to save a girl's life --- a girl who would be his first, and greatest, loss.

Born into a Jewish family in small-town Iowa, the only boy among six sisters, Mose Sharp couldn't leave home soon enough. By sixteen Mose had already joined the vaudeville circuit. But he knew one thing from the start: "I needed a partner," he recalls. "I had always needed a partner."

Then, an ebullient, self-destructive comedian named Rocky Carter came crashing into his life --- and a thirty-year partnership was born. But as the comedy team of Carter and Sharp thrived from the vaudeville backwaters to Broadway to Hollywood, a funny thing happened amid the laughter: It was Mose who had all the best lines offstage.

Rocky would go through money, women, and wives in his restless search for love; Mose would settle down to a family life marked by fragile joy and wrenching tragedy. And soon, cracks were appearing in their complex relationship ... until one unforgivable act leads to another and a partnership begins to unravel.

In a novel as daring as it is compassionate, Elizabeth McCracken introduces an indelibly drawn cast of characters --- from Mose's Iowa family to the vagabond friends, lovers, and competitors who share his dizzying journey --- as she deftly explores the fragile structures that underlie love affairs and friendships, partnerships and families.

An elegiac and uniquely American novel, Niagara Falls All Over Again is storytelling at its finest --- and powerful proof that Elizabeth McCracken is one of the most dynamic and wholly original voices of her generation.

Dearly Beloved

This story --- like most of the stories in the history of the world --- begins far away from Des Moines, Iowa.

It starts with two men --- one thin, one fat --- dressed in tuxedos, walking down a black-and-white street arm-in-arm. The fat man keeps stumbling. At one point he falls and manages to land on his high silk hat. The fat man will always land on his hat, and the thin man will always help him up, whack him over the head, and replace it.

"I don't want to do this, Professor," the fat man pleads in a childish voice.

"You'll be fine," says the thin man, who, befitting his name, wears a mortarboard instead of a top hat. He drags the fat man up a set of stairs into a white church and through the flung-back doors and down the aisle to a sudden wedding march. Though both men are rotten marchers, they make it to the altar, where a minister opens a Bible in a chiding way: there's no good reason to be late to your own wedding, even if your bride is a ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Book Magazine - Chris Borris

In the end, this book is a love story: not between Mose and his wife (yawn) or even flamboyant Rocky and his many lovely and not-so-lovely girlfriends, but between Mose and Rocky, the funniest guys in town.

Publishers Weekly

Any doubts that McCracken could not equal the inventiveness, wit and quirky imagination of her first novel, The Giant's House, will be dispelled by this relentlessly eventful, rollickingly funny and heartwarming narrative. In its delicate balance of black humor, irony and pathos, this novel is as exhilarating as the waters of Niagara, its flow mimicking the tumultuous rush of time.

Booklist - Mary Ellen Quinn

McCracken's book suffers from the problem that afflicts many novels covering long spans of time: time passes too quickly. This whistle-stop approach reduces the story's compellingness. Still, there are many good moments.

Kirkus Reviews

McCracken just may strike it rich with this enchantingly detailed and immensely appealing follow-up to the NBA-nominated "The Giant's House "(1996)....A career-making book that bears interesting comparison with both Philip Roth's "I Married a Communist "(1998) and Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay".

Reader Reviews
jamie

McCracken is a must for any bookworm.

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