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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Thunder Bay can be a terrifying place: there are wolves in the schoolyard, menacing strangers, accidents at the mill, and peril around every corner. At least that’s why Will’s agoraphobic mother has never let him go outside. But when the protagonist of If I Fall, If I Die leaves the bubble, this tense, exploratory coming-of-age tale takes flight. While Will’s search for a missing boy drives the action, this elegant novel is grounded in the hero's quiet friendship with Jonah—a skateboarder from the rough part of town—and in Canadian writer Michael Christie's compassionate portrayal of mental illness.
"The Outside" has never seemed as dangerous and as magical as in the debut novel by Christie (the story collection The Beggar's Garden) about a boy who lives confined in his home with his agoraphobic mother. Until the age of 11, Will has never set foot Outside; he spends his time indoors painting "masterpieces," conducting Destructivity experiments, and dealing with the many deliverymen his mother fears. When a strange noise brings Will outdoors for the first time, he encounters a boy who soon disappears, sparking Will's curiosity about not only the boy's whereabouts but also the Outside world in general. Against his mother's wishes, he starts attending school, making friends, and picking up skateboarding. Alternating chapters between Will's increasingly daring adventures Outside and his mother's increasing reclusiveness hint at his mother's past and the source of her condition. While the mysterious family backstory at times distracts from the delightful simplicity of Will's misadventures, the boy's raw but clever commentary brims with a fierce poignancy that makes the book very difficult to put down.