What I'm Reading: The Shock of the Fall

While I'm sat at my desk at my day job attempting to make the stacks of paperwork piled upon it disappear, I love listening to TED Talks. I suppose this could serve as a warning that if we speak in person, you will often hear, "So, I was listening to this TED Talk..." - don't say I didn't tell you beforehand. And how I came to include this title in this series is because of exactly that which you can watch below.

In The Shock of the Fall, nineteen-year-old Matthew Homes is a resident of a care center diagnosed with schizophrenia and casually mentions having murdered his older brother Simon ten years earlier - and moves on. My initial reaction was a raised eyebrow. Did I read that correctly? Yes, I did. And no, it is not immediately clarified. But what is clear is the effect of Simon’s death on his family and how each character’s grief came to influence Matthew’s current situation.

The tragedy is never addressed after his brother is buried as evidenced by their inability to even go into his room as if they don’t want to disturb any of his belongings for several years. His mother develops severe depression and an overprotective nature over her surviving child which included homeschooling and numerous trips to the doctor that would make the most ardent hypochondriac proud. Matthew’s father returns to work and at least some sense of normalcy in his routine. Eventually, Matthew’s behavior becomes unpredictable and calls into question his safety and the safety of others. But he insists he isn’t of a split mind which is what schizophrenia describes in its literal translation. Rather he seeks out his brother’s angelic presence in every area of his life: in an overheard conversation, in the flames of lit birthday candles, the edge of a cliff in Dorset, in the countless atoms circulating in the air.

The writing style Nathan Filer uses in this novel is very much akin to someone telling you a story aloud. Someone who goes off on tangents constantly. While I don’t personally mind it, it might be jarring to other readers when it bounces around to different places and periods of time. I couldn’t help but think that this type of story might work better as a film with a clearer depiction of what is and what is not a flashback before you’re a few paragraphs deep into the new tangent.

I will admit that the reason I finished this book is due to the casual mention of Simon’s murder leaving me with a lot of questions. While it did tug on my heartstrings a few times, I wasn’t as moved by the end as I thought I might be. Instead, I felt frustrated with the adults in the book that were so consumed by their own grief they never provided the child who lost his only brother and best friend in how to deal with his. Also, because the work is a slow burn, it reminded me of Manchester By The Sea, with more clearly defined, discernable character development for its main protagonist. 

Have you read The Shock of the Fall? What were your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below and tell me any book recommendations you have for me.