If I Fall, If I Die

If I Fall, If I Die

A Novel

Book - 2015
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A heartfelt and wondrous debut about family, fear, and skateboarding, that Karen Russell calls "A bruiser of a tale . . . a death-defying coming-of-age story."

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 panics at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and fun- loving--full of art, science experiments, and music--and all 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.  At his new school he meets Jonah, an artsy loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedoms of skateboarding.  Together, they search for a missing local boy, help a bedraggled vagabond, and evade a dangerous bootlegger.  The adventure is more than Will ever expected, pulling him far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood, and all the risks 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 uncertainties, and the lengths we'll go for those we love.
Publisher: New York : Hogarth, [2015]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780804140805
0804140804
Characteristics: 323 pages ; 24 cm

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n
NWPLindabear
Dec 14, 2016

When I first started this, I thought for sure it was going to be a complete Room by Emma Donoghue rip-off--mother and son never go outside. Thankfully, I decided to forge on and it turned out to have its own unique spin and I got to see the boy venture Outside and what that meant for him as a growing person and his mother, who remained inside. Definitely worth the read.

p
PennPal
Feb 24, 2016

exceeded expectations, well written, characters defined gradually with care and attention to detail.
Thoughtful.
A pleasure to read.

r
rodraglin
Jan 23, 2016

Contrived ending trips up
If I Fall, If I Die

Will is an eleven year-old boy and the child of a single mother Diane.

Diane suffers from agoraphobia and has kept herself and her son "Inside" their house in Thunder Bay for the better part of his young life. Because he knows nothing else except what his mother has told him he accepts that going "Outside" is a death sentence.

Diane has inherited the family home and they live off generous monthly support payments from her ex-husband, a successful architect. Everything, apparently, can be delivered.

One day Will hears an odd bang and goes outside to investigate.

He doesn't die.

He meets a young Native boy, the enigmatic Marcus. This brief encounter has a profound affect on Will and he sees Marcus as his friend and someone who can teach him about the "Outside".

He begins to sneak out and search for Marcus and gradually realizes he's not in imminent danger.

Despite his Mother's misgivings he decides he wants to go to school, rather than continue being taught at home. He makes friends with another First Nations boy, Jonah, an acquaintance of Marcus and together they continue to search for their missing friend.

Soon their search arouses the ire of some very unsavory people who inhabit the decaying waterfront and grain elevators of Thunder Bay.

Author Michael Christie's writing is fresh and professional. He does a masterful job in describing Diane's illness, which is the overriding issue in the novel. His depiction of a young boy coming of age with a mother who has a debilitating mental condition is convincing. Lesser issues like the inherent racism in Canadian society toward First Nations people is dealt with subtly and without being didactic. There's even some interesting information about the sport of skateboarding.

However, the story is essentially a mystery, even if it's not promoted as one, and that's where If I Fall, If I Die gets tripped up.

The climax of the novel is disappointing. I got the impression the writer wrote himself into a corner and had to come up with some pretty far-fetched, out-of character actions to get out of it.

Forget the unlikely coincidences, what is really disconcerting is after doing such a good job of portraying the symptoms and manifestations of agoraphobia, Christie resorts to the misguided concept that when something really, really important needs to be done the mentally ill person can be put aside their illness, at least temporarily, and take the appropriate action.

The denouement is unrealistic as well; bad guys turn good, Native children actually succeed, families are reunited, the mentally ill people live together in harmony.

Like so many literary novels I read, I get the impression If I Fall, If I Die started out as something else, what I'm not quite sure and neither is the author. Eventually, authors have to end their stories and so it was for Christie, but not knowing where you're going in the first place means you don't know where you'll finish.

That's probably why this ending seems highly unlikely rather than inevitable.

g
geordie18
Sep 28, 2015

If I Fall, If I Die definitely exceeded my expectations. Though I liked Michael Christies book of short stories, Beggar's Garden, I much preferred If I Fall, I Die. At it's heart, it is a coming of age story. It is the story of young fellow, Will, aged about 9 who has lived " Inside' he and his mother's home for most of his life. His mom suffers with agoraphobia and anxiety. Eventually curiosity overcomes Will and he decides to go " Outside" and to school. Having lived inside all of his life, naturally he is bullied at school and regarded as rather odd. He makes friends with a small group of people, a fellow student, Jonah, a First Nations boy, and girl who suffers with cystic fibrosis. The town of Thunder Bay , Ontario is where he lives. I found Thunder Bay to be a fascinating and well described place. While many years ago, it was bustling town full of grain pools and the shipping of grain, it is now a dying town, with illegal grain alcohol as one it's biggest products. Subtly ,the author acquaints us with the lack of acceptance of First Nations people, the feel of a small a decayed town, with the many people living on the margins. I really got a most interesting feel for Thunder Bay, a gritty, decaying place, that likely exists in far more small towns across Canada than I realized. The situation of First Nations people became more real for me. The story also became a page turner, in that Will and his friend are pulled into the cross-hairs of the criminal element of Thunder Bay.

I very much enjoyed the story, even if parts of it strain credulity. Thunder Bay almost became a character to me , so well was it described and I felt I gained a much better understanding of First Nations people and the lack of integration that happens in so many places. Will's story of dealing with an mom suffering with agoraphobia was certainly an interesting one, but only one part of the story.

My suspicion is that this book will have a limited appeal. Though I am giving it 4 stars and very much appreciated reading it, it will appeal most to those who are keen on Canadian Literature , with it's quirky , dark appeal and unusual story line.

Will it make the short list? One never knows what the Giller Prize Judges are looking for . I was really was fascinated at how the author was able to give the feel of how marginalized First Nations people are, just by presenting them as part of the story. The decaying small town feel became so real for me too. Living in a large, growing urban centre, this was very interesting story for me. Very glad I picked up this book from my local library.

Guardedly recommended. For me , it was a fabulous but unusual read, but it won't appeal to everyone - even those who want to it read for the Giller Prize. 4 keen stars from me

m
MustHaveBook
Sep 18, 2015

I absolutely loved it and am thrilled to find someone who shares the same brain speak; writing the way I speak only he is so much more polished than I am. I was born in Fort William in 1955, moving to Vancouver B.C. in 1965. What a connection to the history...I could trace walks over the swing bridge at end of James Street and recall the smell of the then Fort William and Port Arthur before amalgamation in 1977 to Thunder Bay. Good on Ya' Michael Christie. I found myself so thoroughly engrossed; captivated with his language that every now and then it felt so right; so normal that I would question myself as to what happened that I could fall into the sentences with such ease and as I refocused on the print I would get hit again with that individualized speech pattern that had instantly drawn me into the vortex of this great novel! It just all makes perfect sense. Brilliantly done!! I felt the young Will transform from being an Insider to an Outsider and visualized the most apt descriptions that were penned by Michael Christie. Totally!! April 27th reviewer Lisa Tofts comments: " Habitual literary fiction readers will find this book a delightful and refreshing read"., to which I most heartily agree with!

d
dontbugmeimreading
Sep 15, 2015

The beginning was good but it was a struggle to finish it.

Djeremay Jul 27, 2015

Poorly written, muddy plotting & unbelievable situations make for a book so boring, I didn't last 100 pages before giving up. Seems like something a junior high student or younger might get into.

Cynthia_N Jun 21, 2015

A good book but a little predictable. I was hoping for more of a focus on the mother's illness as I find that quite interesting.

m
matateishi
May 19, 2015

A fluid writing style can't make up for one dimensional characters, improbable actions, and a lurching plot.

l
lisatofts
Apr 27, 2015

In this beautiful work of literary fiction, Author Michael Christie creates a wonderful story about a woman and her son and how they manage her mental illness. The mother is afraid to go Outside, while the son is tired of being Inside. When the son does venture Outside, Christie stuns the reader with picturesque gems like: “Will moved now from the concrete into the grass, grotesquely alive beneath his feet – a carpet made of salad…” and “… he vanished into the ferocious-looking woods.” While the outdoors is completely mundane to many readers, the author brings these new sensations and emotions alive for our shut-in characters.
Mysterious events and surprising conflicts keep the story moving in unexpected directions. Christie has remarkable imagination that captivates the reader.
Christie brings the story to an end with a quiet explanation of what mental illness is really like: “People Outside say someone is ‘losing it’ when they get scared… like those people on TV stuck in a blowing tube, trying frantically to catch the money fluttering around them, except the bills were actually pieces of her.”
Habitual literary fiction readers will find this book a delightful and refreshing read.
-- Tofts Reviews

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lisatofts
Apr 27, 2015

lisatofts thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 25 and 99

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Sonjahv Feb 08, 2015

"The boy stepped Outside, and he did not die."
#firstline #firstsentence

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