Book Talk: The Shock of the Fall // Where the Moon Isn't8:30:00 PM
Where the Moon Isn't, a book whose synopsis I was reading online, was actually The Shock of the Fall, a book I had recently finished! Both novels have different titles, covers, and even different synopses, and yet the books themselves are identical.
The Shock of the Fall wasn't at all what I thought it would be. When I first picked it up, I imagined it to be more of a mystery/thriller than it actually was. That's because this was the description I read:
While on vacation with their parents, Matthew Homes and his older brother snuck out in the middle of the night. Only Matthew came home safely. Ten years later, Matthew tells us, he has found a way to bring his brother back...
What begins as the story of a lost boy turns into a story of a brave man yearning to understand what happened that night, in the years since, and to his very person. Unafraid to look at the shadows of our hearts, Nathan Filer's rare and brilliant debut Where the Moon Isn't shows us the strength that is rooted in resilience and love.
Here's a description of what the book is actually about:
‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’
There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.
There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.
There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.
The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.
The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.
Curiouser and curiouser, right? Here are my thoughts on The Shock of the Fall/Where the Moon Isn't:
Nineteen year old Matthew feels deeply responsible for his brother's death, but that's not what this novel is about - not really. Instead, the novel chronicles Matthew's descent into schizophrenia. When I first finished this book I was left with the feeling that this novel is important. It's clear that Nathan Filer draws on his experience as a mental health professional, and it lends an authenticity to the book that it might not have had otherwise.
The most compelling aspects of the story were the flashbacks/memories of his childhood with Simon, where the reader begins to piece together what really happened, as it is clearly a pivotal moment in Matthew's life. Matthew is the ultimate character for experimenting with narrative style - he doesn't tell stories in a linear way, he obsesses over particular events, coming back to them over and over again, and he speculates about what the reader thinks/knows about him. Filer uses varying typefaces as a way of communicating the inconsistencies in Matthew's thought processes - lucid one moment and slipping the next - and it adds a level of depth to the story being told. He is an unreliable narrator to the extreme, and the author uses that to his advantage - Matthew's mental illness is both the focus of the story and a device used to propel the story backward and forward at will.
In spite of the head-spinning way the book unfolds, I was kept grounded by the continual realization that Matthew is never really able to "get well" - he continues to struggle in spite of the medications, the inpatient and outpatient care, the support of his family - nothing that anyone does can help. They can begin to manage it, but they can never control what is going on inside his head. The book is a reminder of the reality of mental illness. It's a reminder that it takes love and patience and hope to survive in this world, and without those things we are lost.
There's a great deal of confusion surrounding the marketing of this book, which was my biggest qualm with it - this review on Goodreads does an excellent job of explaining the differences between the UK published version and the US published version. I somehow ended up reading a copy that had the original UK cover and title but had the US description, which as I mentioned earlier was extremely misleading.
I don't quite understand the motivation behind changing the title and description, as I feel like that just confuses things. Most upsetting was the loss of the original title, which holds great significance: it is referenced repeatedly in the book and has literal and metaphorical meaning. I agree with reviewer Jessica who says it seems like the US version is attempting to mask the prominent role of mental illness in this book - and its a shame.
This book was written by someone who works in the mental health field - whose work reads as an attempt to de-stigmatize schizophrenia, and changing the description to make the book seem like something it's not flies in the face of that. Don't let this discourage you, however; this book is worth your time (and the frustration of trying to find a book with two names!) The Shock of the Fall isn't at all what I thought it would be, but I'm glad I read it anyway. Just like people, books can sometimes surprise you.
Have YOU ever experienced misleading marketing? Tell me about your experiences and share your thoughts about The Shock of the Fall and Where the Moon Isn't below!