Richard isn’t happy with his life. He often feels resentful of his wife and children, burdened by the weight of responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with having a family. When he isn’t hiding in the bathroom to get a break from his family, Richard can be found gazing at a neighbor’s home. Bill and his wife seem to have a perfectly peaceful life, and Richard envies them. Meanwhile Bill—a father without children—envies Richard and his young family. Both men wish for what the other has, neither one realizing that they are both deeply unhappy.
Most of the story takes place during an extended snowstorm that leaves the two neighbors stuck at home for days on end. Richard has the added aggravation of his in-laws being at his home, unable to leave until the weather turns.
This stationary setting and lack of people for the main characters to interact with made for a story that, unfortunately, often felt stagnant to this reader. Richard’s dissatisfaction with his life and his reluctance to spend time with his family left me completely unable to connect with this character, and I strongly disliked him.
I was far more interested in Bill’s character, even though his character interacted with even fewer people, for the most part. The reasons for his unhappiness made his character easy to sympathize with, and his interest in Richard’s family made sense to me. My rating is based purely on the strength of his story—it kept me reading, despite my distaste for Richard’s portion of the story.
I had hoped to enjoy Drift Stumble Fall as much as Broken Branches, and I was disappointed when I realized that wasn’t going to happen.
I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Hideaway Fall.
About the Book
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, 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 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.
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.