Love is sure and timeless and forever. It whispers over the morning coffee and the last thought before sleep. Love is beyond hope, and cruel as life.
Kaz has been in the UK for almost a year, but the days pass by in an endless round of alcohol and nothingness. He has a story but no words good or bad enough to tell it, until one day, he is assigned a new peer mentor who asks him to help train a sponsored running team. Something that was stretched as old parchment breaks inside, and memories begin to re-surface.
Zack is overjoyed when his friend Adam asks him to be part of the sponsored run team trying to make money for the local homeless shelter. All day he makes cakes to lighten people’s load, but something is missing from his life. Then he meets the boy with eyes like the desert, and with every step he runs, Zack’s light burns away the darkness in Kaz’s heart.
As the race heats gets nearer, Tork, Adam, Zack and Jo realise that under Kaz’s careful programme, they have a chance to qualify and set right some of the wrongs of this world.
This book features the characters Tork and Adam from The Invasion of Tork and The Invasion of Adam
We both bought copies of this book, and to note that all authors’ proceeds go to homeless charity
Karen: I read the Invasion of Tork and The Invasion of Adam last year, and loved them, and I was so excited when I realised that there was a 3rd book in the series. You really do need to read all 3 to get the flavour as well.
The series as a whole tackles issues such as homelessness and mental health in a completely accepting and non judgemental way, and doesn’t glamourise them or offer some magical cure that suddenly makes everything better nor do they swamp you with angst and misery. These books celebrate hope and love.
Fra: Likewise Karen, I read the first two books at the very end of last year and was as excited that a third book was coming out: I found them all enchanting.
The major issues of homelessness, mental health and, now, immigration, are all addressed respectfully and sympathetically. S They are strengthened by weaving friendship and young romantic love into the narrative, while not sparing the characters major obstacles to overcome but managing to retain the story’s hopefulness and uplifting qualities.
In a genre which, generally speaking, actively pursues the miraculous end and sorting out of the “Problem”, these books stay, thankfully and gracefully, cliche’ free.
Karen: Kaz is a refugee from an unnamed country, where being gay can get you imprisoned. He’s in the UK and everything is just fine, thank you very much. Except it isn’t at all. Kaz tries to navigate the weirdness of the British, missing his family and friends and dealing with the horrors that happened to him on his journey to the UK by drinking the cider, and collecting things. I got such a feeling of isolation and sorrow from Kaz , and while the support system he had was well meaning, no one really ‘got’ him.
Fra: Karen! The account of Kaz’s migrant journey, its reasons and its psychological effects broke my heart.
I think the authors managed to maintain a very delicate balance between social commentary on the effects of human trafficking and exploring how the migration journey affects Kaz as a person and the gradual breakdown of all of his coping mechanism.
Kaz’s journey of displacement and self discovery striked me like the ugliest version of the classic hero journey; each step more drastic and tragic than the last and where the destination represents both the end of one journey, the physical one, and the beginning of another: a psychological one of self discovery, self acceptance and ultimately of self affirmation.
Pushed out by his parents for being gay and basically consigned in the hands of human traffickers, Kaz arrives in Britain with absolutely nothing. The papers, the news, are full of harrowing accounts of how human traffickers exploit the migrants of this generation; by describing Kaz’s steady descent into a complete PTSD melt down I think the authors have managed to convey how very soul destroying the experience is.
Superficially cheerful in his interactions with his environment we get to see him steadily falling apart: it starts with the numbing cider and it escalates with the hoarding of items which directly relate to the tragic journey he has undertaken.
I thought that the character development was particularly well executed.
Kaz burden is heavy: on the one hand there is his being gay within the boundaries placed on him by his own culture. Particularly well written was, in my opinion, the oppressiveness of religion signified by the almost suffocating presence of the Church, the Mosque and the Synagogue buildings around him.
On the other he is navigating a completely different country and culture after the most tragic of journeys; His coping mechanisms – the drinking and the hoarding coupled with the flashbacks makes for hard but necessary reading. It is an accursed attitude and state of mind to forget and ignore the human cost of forced migration be it because of war, economic reasons or – as in this case – human rights issues.
Kaz therefore deals with deeply seated personal issues: his sexuality, his loneliness, the modality of how to behave in a society and culture completely different from his own while at the same time having to cope with the psychologically devastating effect of the how he got into the new society and culture in the first place.
Karen: I also felt that the religious aspect was very well done. There are numerous romance books where religion is the source of conflict within the characters various relationships, but not so many where religion is seen as such a negative aspect in general.
I would also add that for a romance novel to tackle the subjects in this book was a brave thing to do, and while at no time did I feel like I was being lectured, there was also no doubt where the authors stood.
Fra: The human connections the characters make create a strong network for them to grow and rely on while they do so. The books – this one and his predecessors – convey a very strong message of ties chosen and cultivated at a very human level. Here, I think, is where the authors bring forward an incredibly uplifting message of hope which makes this series a veritable pleasure to read.
All in all If I Should Stumble is a gorgeous addition to this series and an important book for all to read. At a time in which the rise of unbridled conservatism will lead us to believe that the cause of all social evil is the current mass migration movement, it is books like If I Should Stumble which remind us that behind the word “migrant” there are people – human beings who in very many cases did not quite chose to leave their countries and their families and friends; people who have lost everything and now found themselves on death barges and in containment camps, or direct provision accommodation; people who we should make feel welcome and safe instead of unsure and unwelcome. A book that manages to balance serious and important subjects about the world we live in today, with a love story and the story of a man navigating a new life in a new country.
buy it here