Book review

If ever I fall by S. D. Robertson, Blog Tour – Book Review & Excerpt

If ever I fall… ? a question we ask ourselves in every relationship. We have a number of reasons to do so too, some worth the doubt, some baseless and a few times out of our control. 

  • Have you had that feeling, an out of body type, like you are a stranger in your relationship and unknowingly dissociate from your own behavior towards the partner? 
  • Have you been through a time, miserable only because you yourself created those circumstances out of an undiagnosed illness or simply because you let things get out of control? 

Our lead characters’ in this story are victims of their own mind. It is a story told not in the traditional format but it felt like glimpsing into the minds of the characters as they narrate their innermost, intimate thoughts, conversations with their inner voices/selves. 

Have patience, read the whole story and then spend some time thinking what struck you, like one of those ‘what just happened’ moments. Except it is about lives, some not so bright, happy times but of some critically important even of greatest realisations and actions of a lifetime. Also, read the excerpt after my thoughts and you will get a sense of what to expect. Here’s a list of my fellow bloggers, do visit their blogs to read what they think of this emotionally delicate yet resilient story.

Book



Title: If ever I fall

Author: SD Robertson

Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins UK)

Published: 9/2/2107

Format: eBook

Rating: 3.5/5

Location: England

Profession: Newspaper editor and Solicitor.

Buy it here: Amazon India

Story

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?

Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.

Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?

In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?

My thoughts

Dan and Maria are a happy family with their two girls – one a teenager and the other around 7 years old. On the face they are a happy family with working parents who border on being workaholics. Two girls with school and the usual going ons that are to be expected at their respective ages. One tragic event later things change as tragedy strikes the family. While on the face everything seems as good as it can, emotionally it is an aftermath of Tsunami. 

Most of us, humans that is, have a knee jerk reaction to dealing with emotional/mental stress privately. Be it relationship concerns, grief, marital ups downs when in public we act All is Well but the moment curtains drop all hell breaks loose. Some drink themselves to blissful ignorance for a few precious hours some get obsessive about mundane routine things. 

Our lead characters deal with some tough, taxing emotional darkness. Dan and Maria keep it status quo as much as they can for their younger girl Ruby but alone it’s a whole different, scary time. 

They deal with loss and grief takes a toll not only on their personal lives but it shakes their marriage too. While Maria slowly seems to work towards dealing with grief,  Dan finds him in a whirlwind of his mind playing tricks and his sub conscious coming out to play. The narration goes back and forth between the husband and wife untill things come to a head for one and some normalcy for the other. The ending leaves us with the curtains dropping on the  characters slowly, leaving the reader in a hot, emotional mess. 

I am still digesting the emotions, obsessive behavior and the effects of grief, it will take time to say if I love the story and can get over the fog it leaves one in… A mental space where worries cloud the heart, fear dances and hope plays hide and seek… 

Here’s an excerpt to get you started on this heartbreaking yet important life story.

                           Excerpt

The ground floor flat where he’d been living these past few months was a simple two-bedroom affair in one of the city’s bland outer suburbs – a reasonable but not especially sought-after neighbourhood. Apart from the fact it was conveniently located just a ten-minute drive from work and a quarter of an hour from his real home, Dan hated everything about the flat. It was poky and damp with a mouldy brown bathroom and a kitchen barely big enough to cook a microwave meal. He didn’t even have the freedom to improve things – to occupy his mind with DIY – thanks to an unpleasant landlord who was only interested in getting his rent on time. Dan felt too old to be renting again. He’d never get used to spending so much time alone.

He let himself into the hallway, which he shared with the occupants of five other flats. He hoped not to bump into any of them, as he doubted himself capable of small talk at that moment. The muffled sound of daytime TV was coming from the flat opposite, but the woman who lived there was in her nineties, partially deaf and walked with a frame. The chances of her coming to the door were minimal.

Dan hovered for a moment above the letterbox but didn’t bother checking it. He let himself inside the flat, grabbed the two items he needed from the bedroom wardrobe plus a half bottle of vodka from the kitchen. Then he left without looking back.

There were things he’d miss, but the flat wasn’t one of them. It represented everything he hated about his life. It was a daily reminder of how badly things had turned out.

He thought back to what Maurice had said about more cutbacks. Would they have got rid of him this time? It was possible. The photo cock-up and the legal action that was bound to follow wouldn’t help.

Who knew?

Who cared?

He was done.

He got into the car and pulled the vodka bottle out of the inside pocket of his jacket, taking a long swig. Then he put the key in the ignition and did a six-point turn in the road.

‘Goodbye, flat from hell,’ Dan said, flicking the V-sign as he pulled the car away and headed for the sea. He considered calling in to see to his mum on the way, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. What would be the point?

He’d decided on his destination during one of his lowest moments: alone late at night, drunk and maudlin, looking through old photos on his computer. There was one particular picture that had caught his eye, from about four years earlier. It had been taken on a family holiday on the North Wales coast: a last-minute booking in a gem of a cottage and a rare week of scorching temperatures. Similar weather to today in fact.

They were pictured on a clifftop, framed by a glorious deep blue of merging sea and sky. It must have been taken by a passer-by, as they were all together in the shot. That was one of the reasons he liked it so much. The other thing was how happy each of them looked, all blissfully unaware of the heartache and pain biding time in the shadows, waiting to ravage them.

That night, Dan had stared at the photograph for hours, until the dark moment eventually passed. He’d seen things differently in the sober light of the next morning. And yet the location had stayed with him, rising to prominence again in recent times as his outlook grew increasingly bleak. Even so, he’d been hanging on, hoping against hope that something would change. That a chink of sunshine would break through the black cloud enveloping his world and offer some hint of a silver lining.

But it had never come. 

He’d been teetering on the edge for the last few days. Now he was free-falling. The phone complaint had done it, but the prospect of yet more cutbacks had sealed the deal.

The journey would only take a couple of hours or so, as long as the traffic wasn’t too heavy. That was one of the reasons they’d chosen it back then for a holiday: no long car journey, no airports, and yet still a change of country. Goodbye Northern England; hello bilingual road signs, beautiful beaches and cheery Welsh folk. It couldn’t have been easier. And it hadn’t felt close to home at all once they were in that blissful holiday bubble of beaches, picnics, ice creams and meals out. Flying kites. Laughing at in-jokes. Enjoying being a family.

There must have been rows. What family holiday didn’t include at least one or two? And yet there were none that Dan could recall. In his mind, it was perfect.

Now he was returning to relive the highlights. He’d do a whistle-stop solo tour, soaking in the memories. When daylight started to fade, he would head up to the clifftop where that photo was taken. He’d find a secluded spot overlooking the sea to park and watch one final sunset. He’d wait until no one was around before rigging up the car with the items he’d taken from the flat: duct tape and a length of garden hose bought days earlier in anticipation of this moment. Then it would be time to slip away.

It was selfish. He knew that. Especially when you considered the family he still had. But he couldn’t do it any longer. He couldn’t keep going; fighting the awful pain at his core, the unrelenting agony. No, he’d reached the end. It wasn’t like they wanted him around, anyway. They were already doing fine on their own. They’d be better off without him.

And yet he felt like he ought to call. To say goodbye at least.

Dan looked over at the glovebox, where he’d put his mobile after turning it off. He thought about it for a few minutes as he made his way on to the motorway. He kept on thinking about it for the rest of the journey, unable to decide.

What if hearing one of their voices made him change his mind? What if he broke down while speaking to them and they realised something was wrong? Also, if he turned his phone on, there were bound to be loads of messages from work. Mind you, those he could ignore.

He decided to call the house once and let fate decide. If they answered, then so be it. He’d speak to them and see where that led him. But if they didn’t answer, he’d take that as a signal to carry on without hesitation.

It was 4.45 p.m. when he parked in a lay-by. He was already well over the border into Wales. After three more gulps of vodka, Dan made the call.

Sweating in the heat now the car’s air-con was off, he let it ring for more than a minute.

No answer.

He lit a cigarette, smoked it to the butt and, despite what he’d told himself, tried again.

Still no one there.

‘That’s that, then,’ he said aloud. Not even an answerphone to leave a message on.

He switched the phone off, ignoring the eight voicemails and six texts from the office, and dumped it in a rubbish bin before getting back into the car and starting the engine.

He was nearly there. The agony was almost over. He’d been living with it for the best part of two years now. But his ability to cope, or at least to carry on despite the pain, had been eroded by the events of the last few months. He could have done so many things differently. He wished that he had, but there was no going back. The past was the past, whatever his regrets. And yet that didn’t stop everything that had led him to this moment churning around and around in his thoughts.

Author

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist.
An English graduate from the University of Manchester, he’s also worked as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner, kitchen porter and mobile phone network engineer.
He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter.

Stuart’s debut novel, Time To Say Goodbye, spent over 6 weeks in the Kindle top 20 and has sold over 60,000 ebooks to date.

Connect with the author via his Twitter.

Reviewed by Bharti

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