Michael Christie

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If I Fall, If I Die – Michael Christie

Published February 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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.

What did I think?:

Once again, a huge thank you to the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath for recommending me this book in a reading spa I attended with my sister, Chrissi Reads. Of course, they sold every book to us perfectly but I was particularly intrigued by the comparisons to Room by Emma Donoghue, one of my all time favourite books. Unfortunately, I think I was expecting something that reached the dizzying heights of the above mentioned novel and it ended up being a bit disappointing. This is purely in comparison to Room as I could definitely see some great qualities in the writing and characters. I have to be honest with myself however and if I judged it on its own merit alone without the pervading influence of Room, I still wasn’t completely blown away by this story which was a shame.

So as you may imagine, this is the story of a mother and her eleven year old son, Will who has never known life outside of his house. His mother is severely agoraphobic, to the extent that she suffers extreme panic attacks (which Will dubs “The Black Lagoons”) if she senses that her son or her own life is threatened in any way. This could be something as simple as changing a light bulb or running down the stairs – Will’s mother has become incredibly paranoid of the everyday challenges of life and relies heavily on her son and her relaxation tapes to keep the bad thoughts at bay. As a result, Will is home schooled and is very wary himself of the outside dangers which he finds out himself one day when tentatively venturing Outside for the first time.

It isn’t long before Will becomes desperate to be a normal boy like his new friend, Jonah and begs his mother to let him attend a normal school. Then Will’s adventures really start. Not only does he have to learn the social intricacies and interaction with other people that he has missed while being indoors but he starts to learn the true meaning of the word “adventure” and with Jonah, embarks on one of his own whilst trying to search for a missing boy and coming across some particularly shady characters. Will finally learns just how dangerous but also how exhilarating the outside world can be and discovers a lot about himself in the process.

As a coming of age story, this book is a fantastic portrayal of a young boy growing up in a very different world from which he had been originally raised in. I really did enjoy the parts of this novel that were set Inside with Will and his mother but I have to admit, she really did frustrate me at points (and I feel a complete cow by saying this), but there were passages where I just wanted to shake her as she didn’t seem to be making much effort to “get better” at LEAST for the sake of her child. She was content just to panic, put her relaxation tapes on and bury her head in the sand at her condition. Luckily, she does redeem herself near the end of the novel so I didn’t remain cross with her for too long but I have to admit, it bugged me.

I loved Will as a character and was gripped initially when he first came out of the house and had to adjust quite quickly to real-life outside of his little bubble. However, I felt the story descended quite quickly into a strange little place with odd villains where I didn’t quite understand their motive and parts of the narrative where I just wasn’t fully invested in where the story was going. As a story of Will and his mother, this was a great book but somehow, I felt it lost its way and tried to become something that I didn’t feel made a whole lot of sense. It was very much a novel of two halves for me and as a result, I found it quite a struggle to finish.

A huge thank you also to Random House UK who provided me with a digital copy via Netgalley.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

If I Fall, If I Die is the fifteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018!

 

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February 2018 – Real Book Month

Published January 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. This month I want to focus on some more of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

1.) The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan

What’s it all about?:

A lyrical and moving debut in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, introducing an original and commanding new voice in fiction

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

2.) If I Fall If I Die – Michael Christie

What’s it all about?:

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.

3.) The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

What’s it all about?:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

4.) Hideous Creatures – S.E. Lister

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary, magical odyssey into the dark heart of the New World . . .

Arthur Hallingham is the youngest son of an English earl. He’s on the run from his former life – from a family where painful, half-understood secrets lurk.

Arthur travels on a slave ship to the coast of America. Amidst the teeming squalor and vaulting ambitions of the New World, he encounters Flora, the tough daughter of an outlaw, and Shelo, a native medicine man with mysterious powers who seems to have a plan for him.

The three set off on a journey through the thick forests and along the wide rivers of the lush southern wilderness. As they near their destination, Shelo’s terrible and destructive purpose is gradually revealed.

Hideous Creatures is a rich, beautiful and compelling novel that will appeal to fans of Audrey Niffenegger, Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman, by a young debut author destined for literary stardom.

5.) Into The Trees – Robert Williams

What’s it all about?:

Harriet Norton won’t stop crying. Her parents, Ann and Thomas, are being driven close to insanity and only one thing will help. Mysteriously, their infant daughter will only calm when she’s under the ancient trees of Bleasdale forest.
The Nortons sell their town-house and set up home in an isolated barn. Secluded deep in the forest, they are finally approaching peace – until one night a group of men comes through the trees, ready to upend their lives and threaten everything they’ve built.

Into the Trees is the story of four dispossessed people, drawn to the forest in search of something they lack and finding their lives intertwining in ways they could never have imagined. In hugely evocative and lyrical writing, Robert Williams lays bare their emotional lives, set against the intense and mysterious backdrop of the forest. Compelling and haunting, Into the Trees is a magisterial novel.

 

As with everything that Mr B’s recommended us, the booksellers there did such a stellar job and I’m looking forward to every single one of these books. I’m particularly intrigued by Hideous Creatures by S.E. Lister as I read The Immortals by her recently (another Mr B’s purchase!) and absolutely loved it. I’ve also spent far too long waiting to read The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, especially as it has had much critical acclaim, winning the Costa Book Award in 2015. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan also looks like such a “me” book – fairy tale-esque, literary and lovely. Can’t wait to get started!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think and what should I read first?