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If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

If I Fall, If I Die

by Michael Christie

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Eleven-year-old Will has never been Outside. Literally. Since he and his mother moved into their home, he has not been outside. His mother Diane suffers from agoraphobia, which they refer to as the Black Lagoon. She has built a world, and Will’s world, Inside. Thank God for technology, as they can order any and everything they need and have it delivered. Will is a small adult in this area, as he signs for all the packages and writes any and all the checks. He knows what Outside looks, feels, and smells like, but he has never, in his memory, attempted to cross the threshold. Inside, he wears a Helmet and a wet suit at all times.
Instead of calling each room by its functional name (bedroom, kitchen, Mom’s room, etc.), Diane has renamed the rooms (Cairo, San Francisco, Tokyo, etc.). It’s hard to keep them straight and figure it out. At first I thought the mother and son were world travelers.
The story open as Will decides to venture Outside. He has heard a noise and wants to explore its origins. Outside, Will discovers Marcus stealing the garden hose. Intrigued with the boy, Will wants to learn more about Outside.
This is the beginning of Will’s bildungsroman. Although his Inside life have centered around music, art, and science experiment, he has never been to school. “Homeschooled,” is how Diane describes it when anyone tries to intervene.
He meets Jonah, a loner, who introduces him to skating boarding. Soon, he is skateboarding all over the city, had quit wearing his Helmet, and no longer sleeps with his mother.
The first third of the book is wonderful. Well written and imaginative, it’s fascinating to watch Will truly become intrigued with other people and the Outside. In the middle of the book, there is a part called “Titus.” To the savvy reader, this section gives away the rest of the story. Will’s fascination with Outside, his newly found independence, his mother’s fears, skateboarding and finding Marcus start to get a little old. All the real action takes place in the first third of the book. That’s why I give If I Fall, If I Die 3 out of 5 stars.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. ( )
  juliecracchiolo | Feb 16, 2018 |
This was really good. Emily you'd like this one! ( )
  sarahjvigen | Mar 23, 2017 |
I loved the storyline, but not the execution. I love novels whose main characters have a mental illness and the more screwed up they are, the better. I find those storylines fascinating. “If I Fall, If I Die” starts out strong, but halfway through, it got boring so I stopped at page 162.

The novel is about an agoraphobic mother, Diane, raising her son, Will, in their home, but one day her son wants to venture outside. He learns that being outside is much safer than his mother lead him to believe and the world didn’t come to an end. He makes friends, goes on adventures and experiences being a kid for the first time. I loved learning about Will’s first experiences outside and his moments of social awkwardness. He had no idea how to act or what public school was like. He was used to ordering everyone over the phone or online and having everything delivered to the house.

The point of view alternates between Diane and Will, and when it’s Diane’s POV, she’s usually wearing headphones and goggles while listening to a relaxation program. She rehashes her childhood and these are the moments when the story slows down and gets a bit boring. At times there wasn’t enough steam to push the story forward, so it took me three weeks to get halfway through because I kept losing interest. I typically finish a book in 3-4 days. This storyline had a lot of potential, but I would have enjoyed it more if it was executed differently. I would have liked feeling and experiencing Diane’s agoraphobia and hearing less about what lead up to it. I wanted to feel her fear and her pain. At times, I did, but it wasn’t consistent enough to keep my interest. Maybe I was on the brinks of hitting the best part, but I don’t know. Maybe the second half of the book was better than the first half for those who read the entire book. I just couldn’t get through the middle of it to find out.

My blog site review of "If I Fall, If I Die" ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
I have mixed feelings about this book. One thread tells the story of an agoraphobic woman, Diane, who keeps her young son always inside with her. As the book progresses, we learn her back story and gain insight into why she became so fearful of life. I later read that the author's mother suffers from agoraphobia, which helps explain why this aspect of the book was so well written.

It is also a coming of age story of the son, Will, who at age 11 decides to leave the house, attend school and join the outside world. This aspect of the story involves crimes of bootlegging, extortion and murder. It was less believable than the mother's story...the kind of story where kids are able to thwart the bad guys despite lack of help from the authorities. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 25, 2016 |
If I Fall, If I Die is a book that went beyond my expectations of the written word. Michael Christie has a way of writing that the book lulls you with the beauty of its prose. This is not a book that you just read it is something you become a part of. The main character Will has no idea what it is like to leave his home because his mother Diane is agoraphobic. Something changes one day and Will leaves the security of his home. It is amazing to experience the outside world for the first time through the eyes of a twelve year old. Wills mother takes her mental issues to a new level after he goes out into the dangerous world. At times I felt so sad for Diane trapped by fear putting herself into her own prison. At other points in the book Diane's fear was annoying to me. The book is full of adventure. Will never having experienced life outside he has no street smarts and gets himself into a bad situation, can he get himself out of it? There are many other characters that fill this book some good, some bad and due to Michael Christie's imagination they are all extremely interesting. If I Fall, If I Die consists of many twists and turns and you are never sure what will happen next. This book is very much worth your time. Anyone who likes a great read will love this book!

"Thank You "Blogging for Books" for allowing me to review this book" ( )
  THCForPain | May 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Still, “If I Fall, If I Die” is not intended exclusively as a meditation on Will’s difficult childhood in Thunder Bay. It’s also a bit of a connect-the-dots detective story that concerns, among other things, stolen garden hoses, missing children and mysterious strangers.
This atmospheric work of gritty realism explores themes of class mobility, self-determination, and the impact of mental illness, but the complex plot hinges upon extraordinary coincidences that strain credulity...Christie is particularly strong in handling the complexities of character, carefully exploring the psyches of two trapped individuals in a manner that recalls Emma Donoghue’s Room....The book also suffers in a couple of key sequences because unnatural stretches of dialogue serve to overtly explain aspects of plot or character development.
Still, Christie does an effective, moving job of illuminating how his novel’s unusual events leave his characters changed.
Do we really have nothing to fear but fear itself? Perhaps—but, as the characters in Canadian writer Christie’s deftly written first novel instruct us, our worries, even though debilitating, may not be altogether groundless....Dark, threatening, dislocating and altogether brilliant
Christie’s heavy use of imagery in this novel reflects the kind of writing favoured by MFA programs (he obtained his from the University of British Columbia) and sometimes proves muddled: “When the Black Lagoon came, when its bear trap was sprung upon her heart . . .” Yet he writes well about what he knows.....

Unfortunately, Christie turns the Marcus connection from facilitator of an original coming-of-age story to its very focus; he bogs down Will and Jonah in a plot (of young adult literature calibre) concerning Marcus’s ties to mobsters illegally fermenting and smuggling grain alcohol. The author even weaves in an unnecessary subplot about the fate of Diane’s long-lost brother and his best friend.

But no matter; there’s still plenty to enjoy here. If I Fall, If I Die is a sort of Alice in Wonderland in reverse, where a kid from a place where fantasy reigns clambers out of his rabbit hole and emerges, awestruck, into the real world.
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“Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up/Fostered alike by beauty and by fear”--Wordsworth
“I lived on dread—(she wrote)/To those who know/The stimulus there is/In danger—other impetus/Is numb—and vitalless—“ –Dickinson
For my mother
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The boy stepped Outside, and he did not die.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804140804, Hardcover)

A heartfelt and wondrous debut about family, fear, and skateboarding, that Karen Russell calls "a bruiser of a tale" and that Philipp Meyer calls "astonishing."

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 exotic and adventuresome—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 goes outside.  At school, he meets Jonah, an artsy loner, who introduces Will to the danger and freedom 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 and pulls him far from the confines of his closed-off world and 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

Will's mother is 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. When Will finally ventures outside-- clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids-- he 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.… (more)

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