Writers and skateboarders share common ground: new terrain must be read and felt. For Galiano Island, British Columbia-based author and former professional skateboarder Michael Christie, it was a smooth 360 ollie from a goofyfoot to writing his first novel. He can deftly kickflip a board and a plot.
His coming-of-age juggernaut, If I Fall, If I Die, pulls readers into the suffocating headspace of an agoraphobic mother and her son, Will, who has never experienced being outside. Instead, Will’s latitude and longitude lines are compressed into the walls of a house and the looming shadows of his mother’s mental illness. But temptation overcomes him, and safeguarded by his ever-present helmet, he leaves the only world he has known. He finds awkward companionship in Jonah, who introduces Will to the solace of skateboarding. The boys become inadvertent citizen detectives, magnetically drawn to the whereabouts of a missing teen.
Christie’s delicate treatment of mental illness goes beyond the parameters of fiction. In addition to a psychology degree and several years working in social services, the powerful emotional taproot of his work stems from his own childhood. Christie’s mother was agoraphobic. His skateboarding mantra, “To be brave, get low, stay up and keep rolling,” is mirrored in his protagonist in a novel that will leave reverberating road rash on the lining of your heart.
– Review written by Jules Torti. Top image by Karen M.