For Will Cardiel, the Outside is uncharted territory. He’s been living with his agoraphobic mother Diane inside their house in Thunder Bay, Ontario for most of his life, opening the door only for deliverymen to collect cheques and drop off groceries and items they order online. Will has always seen himself as his mother’s protector from what he calls “Black Lagoon,” and he spends his days Inside drawing masterpieces and keeping his mother company. Inside was all he ever needed – until a loud bang from Outside piques his curiosity and lures him out of the safety of his home. What follows is a story ripe with adventure, bravery, and most of all, love.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Michael Christie’s book launch here in Toronto at the independent bookstore Type Books (creators of this amazing video, by the by) this week. I was extremely excited to attend the event because I absolutely adored the novel and wanted to learn more about the writing process from the author himself. I was able to chat briefly with Christie at the event where he told me that it took him four years to write the book, during which he read over 40 memoirs so he could feel confident in writing about a character with agoraphobia. His dedication to his research really shines through in If I Fall, If I Die, as Diane is an extremely complex yet utterly believable character at the same time. I loved that the “Relaxation Time” chapters gave Diane a voice in between chapters told from Will’s point of view, as it can be argued that her progress throughout the book is just as momentous as his.
It always catches me off guard how packed 300 odd pages can be. Diane’s story could have easily been a novel on its own, but in If I Fall, If I Die, it is just one part of a larger story. Once Will takes his first steps and becomes acquainted with the Outside world, he (and the reader, along with him) is almost immediately swept up in the “criminal underbelly of city life,” teaming up with his new friend Jonah on a quest to find a missing boy. They navigate their way in and out of Thunder Bay, collecting clues and learning how to lift fingerprints. Will’s Outside world is both scary and comforting at the same time as he discovers that he is simultaneously stronger and more vulnerable than he ever knew he could be.
I was thoroughly impressed by how, on top of the boys’ adventuring and Diane’s mental illness, Christie managed to fill an action-packed book with meaning and things to think about. The book is not only a coming of age story, but also one about the complexities of the mother/son relationship and a stark commentary on the racial prejudices against First Nations peoples in Thunder Bay. But while there is a seriousness to the story, Christie effortlessly infuses humour and completely normal situations to this captivating tale. One of my favourite parts in the book were those where Will and Jonah were practicing on their skateboards; in those moments, the story becomes a universal one, and readers get a glimpse into a very organic relationship between boys and their boards. Knowing that Christie was a professional skateboarder made it even more special; I guess it’s true that passions stay with us forever.
Like most of my favourite books, If I Fall, If I Die has layers upon layers to be dissected, analyzed, and loved. It was a pleasure to read a book that was able to capture so many voices so accurately with such beautiful prose and emotion. This is a book you won’t want to miss in 2015.
Luckily, thanks to the always-generous Random House Canada, you can enter to win a copy of this wonderful book here on my blog!
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again.
I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!
Have you read If I Fall, If I Die? Do you have a favourite CanLit book? (This one is in my top ten.)