If I Fall, If I Die
Crown Publishing Group
January 20, 2015
From Left To Write Book Club
Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and loving, full of art, experiments, and music—but confined to their small house.
But Will's thirst for adventure can't be contained. Clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids, he finally ventures outside. With the help of an artistic loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedom of skateboarding, Will is pulled far from the confines of his closed-off world and thrust headfirst into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.
In buoyant, kinetic prose, Michael Christie has written an emotionally resonant and keenly observed novel about mothers and sons, fears and risks, and the lengths we'll go for those we love.
Michael Christie's novel, If I Fall, If I Die, takes an everyday topic, agoraphobia, and translates this issue into a story that everyone can relate to; especially when one is protecting their child from what they believe to be pain and suffering, the outside.
The storyline kept me interested in the lives of the characters. I wanted to root for Will on his adventures and for becoming his own person. Although not agoraphobic, I understood Diane's fears as her only child started to not only learn about outside, but also start to go outside and explore. I believe fear is a trait every parent acquires.
Additional characters, like Marcus, an orphaned boy, and Jonah, soon to grow into Will's best friend, help to develop Will's character and story along the way. In some ways, Will quickly becomes a symbol of loyalty and dedication.
But as Will grows into his own, Diane begins to retreat further into herself. Eventually, Diane no longer resembles her early self we've come to know. Her retreat becomes a small conflict between Diane and Will, but towards the end of the novel, Diane awakens and takes a large leap out of her fear to save her child.
The story flows easily until about mid-way through the book where I hit some repetition. The story started to take a wave feel - slow then pick up momentum, but not enough for me to put the book aside. I found myself with a certain urge to understand the bumpy relationship developing between Will and Diane. The story turns around the section titled "Titus" and continues at a consistent up pace from there.
There is only one other point in the novel where flow seemed to teeter, this time more of a rushed feel; a twist in the story where a mother turns against her fear. At this one point the story was quick and then slipped back to the earlier consistent pace.
Overall, I enjoyed the story that Christie shared in his debut novel. It was a challenging topic developed into a well written story. It encouraged me to learn more about a fear I know little about, but as a parent, I was inspired by a mother's love for her son.
Michael Christie's debut collection of short stories, The Beggar's Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers' Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. He holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Prior to his MFA, he was a sponsored skateboarder and travelled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, he now lives on Galiano Island with his wife and two sons. If I Fall, If I Die is his first novel.