I really enjoyed Broken Branches by Jonathan M. Lee’s, and I was thrilled when independent publisher Hideaway Fall sent me a copy of his latest novel, Drift Stumble Fall, to review.
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, Richard’s 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, Bill’s 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 Richard’s 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 people’s lives are not always what they seem.
Drift Stumble Fall is a surprising and clever novel which sees neighbours Richard and Bill observing each other’s lives from across the street and wishing that their own life could be more like the one they are observing. As is so often the case, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and neither one knows exactly what the other is going through.
Richard, the main character in the novel, is a married father of two. Working as an accountant, he finds his life monotonous and feels trapped in his humdrum existence. Drift Stumble Fall is mostly told from Richard’s perspective, and whilst the focus on his domestic life might sound a little dull, Lee imbues it with a surprising amount of tension, and I found that the short chapters just fell away I read on to find out whether or not he would go through with his plan. If I have any slight criticism of the novel, it’s that I would have liked a little more of Richard’s backstory, given that he is the main character, and it is told largely from his perspective. I felt as though I didn’t really know what he was looking for in life, only that he didn’t have it. This is a minor point, however, and may represent that we don’t always know exactly what it is that we want.
Bill, who has fewer chapters dedicated to him, is stuck in limbo, and as he watches Richard with his young family, he wishes for nothing more than to be able to experience that himself. Again, Bill’s story, which is rather different to Richard’s, was fascinating, and I really wanted to know the outcome of his situation. I found it interesting that both men would have swapped lives in a heartbeat, neither fully knowing what the other was going through, and it struck me that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life, even those people that you see and interact with on a daily basis.
My simple, misguided perception of their life.
Whilst it’s not a fast-paced novel, Drift Stumble Fall is one that pulls you in and keeps you reading to find out what happens. I loved the atmosphere, which is tense despite the domestic focus, a tension which is enhanced by the snow which keeps them largely trapped indoors for the duration of the novel. Recommended for those looking for something a little different from their next read.
Drift Stumble Fall is published today (12 April) – many thanks to the publisher, Hideaway Fall, for the review copy.