For nine years, Will Cardiel has lived Inside with his mother Diane. Sharing the family home in Thunder Bay, Diane has created a wonderful world of fantasy and fun for Will and that has always been enough for him. She has always been enough for him. Then one day a mysterious sound coming from the backyard forces Will Outside where he meets Marcus. The boy’s simple phrase ‘Nothing can hurt you, Will’, emboldens Will and from that moment he is determined to take control of his life.
Diane, a once successful filmmaker, suffers from agoraphobia and anxiety. The death of her brother in her youth weighs heavily on her and she regards her family as cursed. She is afraid of living, afraid of being hurt again, of losing Will. Alternating between Will’s adventures and Diane’s remembering of her youth in Thunder Bay, the circumstances of their return are slowly revealed.
While Diane’s fear paralyses her and prevents her from living, Will welcomes life in spite of the dangers looming Outside. Through his friendship with Angela, sick with cystic fibrosis and Jonah, a First Nations boy who dreams of becoming a doctor, Will realises that life is all about falling, trying, succeeding and failing and having the courage to get up and do it all over again.
Michael Christie has written a beautiful, honest, intelligent, powerful debut novel with lyrical prose and captivating descriptions of the Thunder Bay community and their socio-economic issues of the time. The characters are written with vulnerability and imperfections and Will’s voice was so authentic that while reading I felt as if was experiencing the outside world through the eyes of someone seeing it and experiencing it for the first time. This holds true for Diane as well, where her agoraphobia and anxiety felt just as crushing to me while reading it as I’m sure it was for her experiencing it.
One of the best books I’ve read so far this year, I recommend everyone pick up a copy.
Thank you to Blogging for Books and the Crown Publishing Group for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.