Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022 and Award Winners

If I Fall, If I Die: Book summary and reviews of If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

If I Fall, If I Die

by Michael Christie

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie X
If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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 rich and loving, 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 ventures outside.  With the help of an artistic loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedom of skateboarding, Will 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.   

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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Dark, threatening, dislocating and altogether brilliant." - Kirkus

"Magical...Brims with a fierce poignancy that makes the book very difficult to put down." - Publishers Weekly

"A bright and busy prose style...Christie does a yeoman's job of depicting the dynamics of the parent-child relationship and the thrills of skateboarding...The novel is at its best in its complex portrayal of mental illness." - Booklist

"This is a bruiser of a tale, one you will feel in your shins and your solar plexus.  Michael Christie is a virtuosic prose stylist and boy is he so very wise and so funny on families and friendships, fear and joy, and the physics of sky and pavement. If I Fall, I Die is a death-defying coming of age story; it's also as weird and as convincing a love story as I have ever read.  And so beautifully told that you'll want to pass it on immediately." - Karen Russell

"An astonishing piece of work. Christie combines lyrical prose and true-to-life characters--and skateboarding--to craft a remarkable tale of mothers and sons, and what it means to grow up." - Philipp Meyer

"Reading If I Fall, If I Die is like hopping on a skateboard and grabbing hold of the bumper of an accelerating car. Christie's prose pulls you on a ride through the winding streets of phobia, family, and friendship at such a clip you won't dare let go." - David Gilbert

"Rarely has the tender claustrophobia of the mother-son dynamic, the raw humanity of mental illness, or the delicate, dangerous process of growing up been rendered with such heart and sensitivity. If I Fall, If I Die mines the fundamental dilemmas of both childhood and parenthood to sublime effect. I can't recall a funnier, truer or more beautiful debut." - Patrick DeWitt

This information about If I Fall, If I Die was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Cloggie Downunder

A remarkable debut.
“Since he’d been Outside, he’d learned that fear was only a default setting, like how the TV always starts at channel 3 when you first turn it on. That everyone is born afraid of everything, but most people build calluses over top of it”

If I Fall, If I Die is the first novel by prize-winning Canadian author and skateboarder, Michael Christie. Since he was a small boy, eleven-year-old Will Cardiel has lived Inside with his mom. Going Outside would just trigger a Black Lagoon for her, so he doesn’t. Until today. Unable to ignore a loud noise, he investigates, meets another boy his age, and sets in motion major changes in his life.

Diane Cardiel has agoraphobia. Once a successful filmmaker, her anxiety is now so great (“…her heart insisted on racing, like an oil-doused bird flapping for its life in her chest. Other sensations, too, unmistakeable as neon: a dull pain throughout, a soreness in her blood, a twisting in her gut, stardust in her fingertips. It would pass, a mere miscalculation of an errant brain that found danger where there was none, that saw a lion instead of the lamb before her”) that her life is limited to inside their house in Thunder Bay (and sometimes, inside her bedroom).

Her fears for Will are many, but she knows that one day soon, she will have to let him go, let him live a normal life. When he insists on going to school, she somehow manages her anxiety. But when she discovers he has been going to the waterfront, to the grain elevators, her dread is overwhelming: “…what drove her panic today wasn’t that her brother had died at the elevators, just as her father did, or that her mother died a young woman. It was that anyone did. Anywhere. That tragedy made no distinction. That it claimed equally those who invited it and those who didn’t. Those treasured, and those ignored. That there was no protection, no spell. It knew every face. Every address”

The story, told over two years of Will’s life, is narrated by Will, by Diane and by a man named Titus, whose identity is gradually revealed (although astute readers will guess correctly). Christie gives the reader a plausible plot, with several mysteries that take twists and turns before being finally resolved. His characters are complex and believable: none are wholly good, all have flaws and failings. There is plenty of humour in Will’s discovery of the Outside world.

Christie gives the reader some marvellous descriptive prose. He can evoke the feel of an agoraphobic’s terror as easily as the confusion of an adolescent: “…such magnitudes of time had a similar underwhelming effect as when his mother first taught him that every single star was actually another sun just like theirs. They created a humph – then nothing. Some information was too enormous to cram into your mind”

Christie obviously writes from experience: he grew up in Thunder Bay himself, and his love of skateboarding is apparent. This moving coming-of-age novel also touches on the plight of Native Canadians, the dangers of grain elevators, the attraction of pure grain liquor and the debilitating effects of agoraphobia. A remarkable debut.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Michael Christie

Michael Christie received an MFA from the University of British Columbia and is a former professional skateboarder. His first book, The Beggar's Garden, was a finalist for a number of major Canadian prizes and the winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award. He lives with his family on Galiano Island, British Columbia. If I Fall, If I Die is his U.S. debut. 

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Horse
    Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Voted 2022 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Geraldine Brooks creates a ...
  • Book Jacket: In Love
    In Love
    by Amy Bloom
    Voted 2022 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. In 2019, author Amy Bloom and her...
  • Book Jacket: Remarkably Bright Creatures
    Remarkably Bright Creatures
    by Shelby Van Pelt
    Voted 2022 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel, ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Scatterlings
    by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe

    The debut novel of a gifted storyteller who has become a sensation in her native South Africa.

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.
Who Said...

There is no worse robber than a bad book.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.