Book Review + Giveaway | If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

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.

If I Fall If I Die Michael Christie Map of Thunder Bay

A map of If I Fall, If I Die’s Thunder Bay.

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.)

32 thoughts on “Book Review + Giveaway | If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

  1. Angélique says:

    I absolutely LOVED this book. I got an eARC from NetGalley (review’s coming). I was very intrigued by the premise, which reminded me a bit of Room by Emma Donoghue. The book went into a direction I really didn’t expect. I really enjoyed (if you can say that) how Diane’s extreme anxiety is depicted (no clichés, for once!) and how the relation of her and her son revolves around it. I find it very satisfying when a book has multiple layers like this one and so much to say about so many things: poverty, racism, prejudices, isolation… A great book that I would really enjoy reading again!

    • Karen @ One More Page... says:

      I did see similarities to Room early on, but once Will left the house the book it was less so (which is great). I feel exactly the same; I love books that are multi-dimensional, that tackle different issues and situations and so well! Thank you for commenting!

  2. Sandra says:

    This book is on my TBR list. I had no idea it was set in Thunder Bay though, a place I’ve visited many times. Now I want to read it even more!

  3. Carole Besharah says:

    Oh, you make this sound so good, Karen! I never knew about the Thunder Bay connection. That is where my husband grew up, and we’ve visited the city a few times in the past decade. I love the photo of the map you posted! I know those places well. Thanks for the review. Adding this one to my too-read list.

      • Carole Besharah says:

        They have been been abandoned for years. My hubby has a crazy tale about some teenage boys climbing that place in the middle of the night 😉

  4. Cynthia says:

    I just read this and reviewed it for my blog as well. I thought it was really good in parts, but the middle kind of dragged and was kind of boring. I LOVED Diane’s chapters.

  5. Naomi says:

    I’ve had my eye on this one, just waiting to hear what others think of it. I want to read it now, with your glowing review! It’s the mother’s story that interests me the most, and I worry there won’t be enough of it in the book. What do you think?

    • Karen @ One More Page... says:

      On top of seeing Diane through Will’s eyes, approximately every 2nd or 3rd chapter is told from her point of view (the “Relaxation Time” chapters). I’d say her story is very intermingled with Will’s, especially when they find their past mixing with the present. Without being spoilery, I do think that this story is as much Diane’s as it is Will’s. I hope you give it a try! (If you’d like, you can enter the giveaway to win a signed copy!)

      • Naomi says:

        Sounds good! And, I actually already have a copy. I just haven’t read it yet. Now that I know it’s good, I’ll read it sooner. Thanks!

  6. M | BACKLIST BOOKS says:

    Well, you already know how much I loved this book, of course. Your review captures a lot of the elements that appealed to me as well. The well-rounded story, the different aspects infused into the personal tale (where his research and background in the area show), the delicacy of his words and the overall feel of wonder and discovery that accompany Will’s forays into the world. This is one of my favourite books!

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