Sent To Me By Hideaway Fall In Exchange For An Honest Review
12.04.2018 / Hideaway Fall / Fiction / Paperback / 310pp / 978-0995492349
Target Audience: Readers who appreciate the human condition and the complexities of life. Plenty of drama, emotion and challenging writing.
About Drift Stumble Fall
Richard Brown has had enough of his life of commitment, resentment, routine and responsibility. Staring out of his window, he enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, the neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From his lounge, Bill keenly watches as Richard’s young family grows.
Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other people’s lives are never what they seem.
M. Jonathan Lee is quickly establishing himself as the go to author for atmospheric, nuanced and provocative drama fiction. MJL’s novels somehow manage to make me smile, sad and furious all at the same time. I enjoy the fact that Lee strives to tackle key psychological issues head on in his novels that cause readers to react emotionally, intellectually and subconsciously too. I have to say that DSF is kind of dangerous for those questioning their relationships, just so you know. MJL’s last novel Broken Branches focused on the manifestation of grief. Drift Stumble Fall fixates on unspoken feelings, being trapped in a life not suited for you and ultimately, for various reasons, putting yourself first.
Richard is literally drifting, stumbling and falling through both marriage and parenthood. He is distant, distracted and disassociated; living a life with one eye constantly on the door, desperate to escape. Suffocated by repetition and knowing his routine down to his very bones. Richard has finally decided to leave his family behind and flee to Nebraska USA to live the rest of his life in confined peace. No more nagging wife, screaming children and boring, predictable work. Life is finally going to be worth living. But how is he going to disappear? He wants to leave but he wants his family to be safe. Richard also doesn’t want to be found. He has a lot of planning to do. It seems that leaving might be harder than first thought.
Drift Stumble Fall follows the week leading up to Rich’s planned departure from his life. He is trapped in the house due to continuous snowfall and his in-laws are stuck with them. Rich has to secretly plan his exit while keeping up appearances around the house. He can’t be certain but someone in the house might know about his plan so the clock is ticking. DSF also follows Bill and Rosie, an elderly couple who live opposite to Rich. Both men observe each other through the window with measures of disdain, jealousy and judgement but neither of them can truly comprehend what is going on in each other’s life.
I thought the juxtaposition of a man who wants to throw everything he has away and a man who would give everything to do it all again was superb. It is a brilliant contrast of living in the moment vs regrets looking back. Speaking of contrasts I like the difference in perspectives too. Having a first person account of Rich’s desperation and a third person view on Bill caused the atmospheric feel of DSF to change dramatically which was good reading. MJL’s writing is engaging, brutally honest and he makes good use of metaphor. The snow is a environmental metaphor for Rich’s life. Cold, uncomfortable and inconvenient. It is also a metaphor for how trapped Bill has felt in his life and its circumstances. MJL has so far used each of his stories to challenge the reader and force them to walk in another person’s shoes.
This is the kind of writing that made me want to talk about books. I wanted to dislike Rich for his choices but as an individual he made some solid arguments. He believes he is being selfless but Rich is also clearly doing this for himself too. There are definitive moments of ‘screw this I’m gone’ but there are also moments of bittersweet joy and love. My respect for Rich therefore ebbed and flowed during my time reading. I thought Bill’s story brought a much needed element of heart and soul. His involvement is short but memorable and I definitely hung onto his experiences. I would love to see MJL write some short stories, I think they would be remarkable.
MJL is focused on the big and bold themes. He is comfortable going dark to get his point across. Including lies, deception, complacency, relationships, unhappiness and escapism in DFS for maximum effect. My only issue with DSF is that it is a tad longer than I thought necessary but that is my personal preference. I certainly enjoyed reading Drift Stumble Fall as it is more digestible than the deep visceral intensity of Broken Branches but they are both connected by the way MJL views life. I can’t recommend Drift Stumble Fall enough for readers who appreciate the vast complexities of life and our decision making as human beings. I am intrigued to see where M Jonathan Lee will take his writing next.
About M. Jonathan Lee
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.