Before turning to what makes this book so creative, a word about the story. The Shock of the Fall is narrated by Matthew, a 20-something man who suffers from schizophrenia. We learn early on that Matthew's older brother died at a young age. We also realize that Matthew has not come to terms with his death, despite the fact that ten years have passed. While the story is not told in a linear fashion, by the time we get to the last page, we have a picture of Matthew's life from before his brother Simon died to the current day. Now on to what makes the book so creative....
Chapter titles are always intended to give the reader a clue about what's coming up. The titles serve this purpose in The Shock of the Fall as well, but their formatting frequently makes the reader sit up and take notice instead of skipping right over them (as I am wont to do in my eagerness to get on with the story).
Author Nathan Filer worked as a nurse on an inpatient psychiatric ward and has been a researcher at the academic unit of psychiatry at the University of Bristol in the UK since 2007. So he knows the world of which he writes. And The Shock of the Fall -- in addition to being wildly creative -- is beautifully written. The story is often heartbreaking, like when Matthew shares something simple such as how the family's seating arrangement while watching TV changed after Simon's death. ("This was our new family portrait -- the three of us, sitting side by side, staring at the space where Simon used to be.") You feel the struggle Matthew experiences as he tries to make sense of his world. ("Sometimes," he says, "the whole world can feel like the small print you find at the bottom of adverts, so everyday stuff like a smile or handshake becomes loaded with conflicting messages.") But you also feel the love that this family has for one another and their commitment to fight Matthew's disease together. Ultimately, the reader is left with a sense of hope tinged with sorrow and frustration. It's not a light summer read, but it is a book that will linger with you--for many reasons--long after you finish the last page.
[NOTE: The Shock of the Fall will not be available under this title until November. The book was previously published in the UK, though, under the name Where the Moon Isn't and can be found now under that title.]