TITLE: And If I Fall
Author: Robin Reardon
Publisher: IAM Books/Self-Published
Characters: Jude Connor
Jude Connor’s rural Idaho hometown is a place of strong values and high expectations. For those who fit into the local church’s narrow confines, there’s support and fellowship. For those who don’t, there’s ostracism in this life and damnation in the next.
Jude wants desperately to be saved—to believe with the fervor of the charismatic Reverend Amos King, whose sermons are filled with brimstone and righteousness. But every time Jude thinks he’s found the right path, there’s a fork in the road, and Truth seems to be in a different direction.
As much as Jude craves the certainty the church offers, he finds himself at odds with it. Without intentionally rebelling, he befriends Pearl Thornton, considered an unrepentant heathen; he craves the support of Gregory Hart, whose church standing is questionable; and the feelings he has for his friend Tim Olsen make him fear for his own soul. But then Reverend King offers Jude sanctuary, special guidance, and a path into the Light.
Will Reverend King be able to help Jude preserve his place in heaven? Or will the reverend’s own demons cause hell to swallow them both? The answer lies in Jude’s willingness to follow his own path—even if it leads him far from everything he’s known.
And If I Fall tackles a subject that is not always easy to write about. I liked the thoughtful way the author approaches religious beliefs.
Jude, the main and POV character, is a great window into his world as he gradually realises the truth about himself, his world, and a man he holds on a pedestal. The story has very strong themes about being true to yourself and not living a lie. I think it is all the more powerful for not being preachy when it would have been very easy to do so. I liked the way it gave a balanced view of each side, and how the saints of the church were portrayed as good people with strong beliefs and sense of community. Growing up in a community, it is often difficult to see perspectives outside what you’ve been brought up to believe is the only truth, and children in particular often think their way of life is the only one there is.
I liked the way in which Jude slowly becomes aware of his sense of self, his slide into becoming someone he thinks he should be, and then his journey back to his true self. Some of his observations had me nodding, and although I guessed the truth about some of the characters before he did, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. Jude’s journey takes him in one direction, but others take different paths, and I liked that about the story. I felt sorry for a couple of the characters—one who decides to follow the expectations put upon him, and another who had tried to do that and failed. And for Jude’s struggle to reconcile his beliefs and the teaching of his church with his feelings for Tim.
There were some lines from the story that really stood out for me. Gregory tells Jude that that he’s come out of the baptism water “not full of love but some ugly fake version of himself.” And Jude’s realisation that he’s becoming “less blinded by the light.”
Characterisation is a huge strength of this book, and it isn’t just Jude who has motivations and secrets. I enjoyed reading about his family, and those who take on the role of family. They were interesting people and felt very real. I particularly liked the characters of Pearl, Gregory, and Dolly. Although they act as foils to open Jude’s eyes to another perspective, they are very much more than that.
I’d recommend And If I Fall to readers who enjoy a thought provoking powerful story about reconciling religious beliefs with sexuality.
Reviewed By: Anne