About the book:
Title: Drift Stumble Fall
Author: M. Jonathan Lee
Published: April 12th 2018 by Hideaway Fall Ltd
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion
The author of five novels, M Jonathan Lee is a tireless mental health awareness campaigner, working closely with organisations including Mind, Time to Change and Rethink and blogs regularly for Huffington Post. Having personally experienced anxiety and depression during his life, Jonathan draws on his experiences to inform his writing.
Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richards existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.
Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other peoples lives are not always what they seem.
I was gifted a review copy from the publisher long before the publication date. I was expecting to like the book, knowing how easy it was to give my rating for “Broken Branches” last year (review here). Little did I know how complex, how complicated and strange it would be. So here I am 10 days after publication, still running my words on paper. “Drift Stumble Fall” is a story that is easy to relate, but one that left me with a lot of questions. I started sympathizing with our main character, but later I got tired of hearing him always complain.
Ok, let me summarize the plot a little. Richard Brown has settled into the apparent comfort of family life, having a wife and two kids. He admits along the pages that they based their vows on love and his feelings for his wife were of love at some point. However, the routine of home – work – home has sent him drifting into a state of unease and even depression. He wants quiet. He wants what his neighbor has: peace and tranquility. Most of all, he wants freedom of all these commitments, of all expectations people have from him.
This will definitely be a long review…
The writing is magnificent! The author has arranged everything in such a way that all the feelings, all the angst are transmitted. I took longer breaks in finishing it as I found myself swimming next to the ocean of desperation. Yes, this is the word. I wanted those days to be over already. I wanted Richard gone so he could find his happiness and so that I can go back to my other books, back to my own routine. That’s how good the writing is. The level of details emphasizes the story and the small hints help us have a better understanding when it comes to the other characters. Everything has logic (not that writing any book would not require logic, but when you first open it and see the action starting on a Friday, you’d say it’s random. And it may be random, because the feelings don’t come on Mondays or on the 1st of every month… )
Note: This is not a plot based book (not necessarily), but (much) more focused on character development. In my unprofessional opinion, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, keep in mind that this book is quite powerful and it may affect you.
While Richard struggles with planning his departure – his new beginning – he looks at his neighbor Bill, whose life has not been easier. How easy it is to believe that our life is not as great as others’, without knowing the real facts. Actually, Bill has known only loss, with one daughter that passed away because of sickness and the other disappeared without a trace at a young age. He has never had a moment of tranquility, always waiting for the outcome of his missing child. But with all his struggles, he has never lost confidence in his wife. Rosie has been his best partner and for that he is grateful. And she is as well.
Coming back to Richard, we have a man with a good job, two beautiful (and loud and demanding) children and a wife who seems to deal with her own mental state – anxiety maybe (the book does not specifically refer to a mental health issue but there are hints here and there that suggest it). But Lisa still loves him and she gave me the impression of knowing something is going on. She can see her husband is not happy and she tries to find out what’s wrong. But she is also afraid to push for more. She knows she’s not perfect. He doesn’t seem to help much either. And here is where my resentment comes. I didn’t like Richard and I (would like to) think that this were our author’s intention. He complains, he wants a change, but he wants to run. Why are we always running from our problems instead of facing them? Instead of trying to fix his marriage, he is willing to take the easy way out.
I could go on and on about him. He can make an excellent case study! Oh, I wish I could meet the guy and tell him a couple of nice words of encouragement, but it’s high time I mentioned the reason for decreasing my rating… (Stand by, Revelation going on)
Oh, no I am not! Writing this review made me better understand the conclusion. Initially, I felt that the author put a rush on the ending and left things unresolved. I had a million questions. But even the title may suggest a never ending cycle (need to stop explaining because of spoilers). This is brilliant! I loved it! 5 Stars
P. S. :
- Life goes in the direction that we want to follow. It’s like driving a car. You want to see something else? Make a turn along the way, make your driving more exciting by abandoning the straight path. Make your life interesting, meaningful. And learn to enjoy the beauty in everything. See it and appreciate it! It’s there!
- Dear Reader, if you’ve had the patience to read this entire article, you are a hero indeed and I thank you for your effort!
- Dear Author, please, if you’ve had the patience to go through my thoughts and saw something I misinterpreted, drop me a note. Thank you for this book! I have not only read it, I felt it!
About the Author
M Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born Yorkshire where he still lives today with his wife, children and dog, Alfie.
His debut novel, The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.
His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015.
His much anticipated third novel, A Tiny Feeling of Fear was released in September 2015 and tells the story of a character struggling with mental illness. All profits from this novel are donated to charity to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was accompanied by the short film, Hidden which was directed by Simon Gamble and can be seen here.
In 2016, he signed for boutique publishers, Hideaway Fall and his fourth novel Broken Branches was released in July 2017, winning book of the month in Candis magazine for September.
He is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe.
His fifth book, the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall is released in Spring 2018.