Book Review: Kyle Andrews’s Strange Fall

Kyle Andrews’s Strange Fall is a young adult paranormal book that digs significantly deeper than your average YA, especially in today’s world of Twilight and Harry Potter. The hero is a high-school age girl, Faeriwyn McKeller (usually called Winnie) whose beautiful, popular older sister died in a tragic accident; a year later, her family is drifting apart, unable to cope with the reality that Cindy is gone. Since the accident, Winnie has been drawn to death herself, rejecting her own life because she is living emotionally with one foot in her sister’s grave. Their parents Marion and Mark are equally troubled, even though one is a grief counselor and the other a paranormal investigator.

Add to this very serious, realistic core a dose of magic cast by an unbalanced megalomaniacal witch named Obell, a dead John Doe body animated by – well, something – and the sudden appearance of a strange dark force, and you have a book that could easily have gone the way of your standard young adult novel.

Except it doesn’t.

Instead, Strange Fall examines issues of loss and love and mourning in a non-self-indulgent manner. Andrews explores the rawness of mourning for a child and a sister and a friend, showing how different the experiences of each character are. The mother Marion is the rational one, keeping it together for the family (or so she thinks.) Mark becomes obsessed with the idea that his daughter Cindy has not gone on to whatever lies beyond death, but instead is trapped on Earth, needing him to protect her as he always did. Winnie acts out, as one would expect of a teen. In the short span of a night, the struggles of each character is explored thoroughly, from genesis to resolution.

There is no overt religious message in Strange Fall, but there is a God, and His mercy and justice are in the background of every page. A family that is scattered, emotionally and personally and physically, is drawn together by chance to become once again a coherent unit at the end. A being of true evil is destroyed by her own wickedness. Characters are forced to face their worst fears – and overcome them. Each character in the book is tested in some manner and, by surviving, grows. It is clear by story’s end that somehow, a pattern just beyond the world we know and understand impressed itself upon the characters, redeeming them, healing them, and helping them move on with life just as Cindy has moved on beyond it.

Andrews does a great job with some very subtle word play; you’ll miss it if you’re not paying attention. A couple of examples: Winnie’s loss of her sister becomes a genuine lost-ness in the story, as she finds herself thoroughly lost in the woods and in danger. The title refers both to the season of the book and the accident – a mysterious fall from a cliff – that led to Cindy’s death; it may also refer to the fall of each character into despair and sorrow before the redemption of this single strange evening. This verbal technique brings a peculiar feeling of cohesiveness to the story, as if the things that happened seemingly by chance were part of a grand design, as if meaning lies just beyond our comprehension. This makes sense, for does not death often feel this way? Again, with this trick Andrews impresses upon the reader that things happen by design; there is no true randomness in his story, but rather a great and incomprehensible pattern that moves in such a way we can only see the ragged edges.

This book is very suitable for teens of any age, and particularly appropriate for teenagers who are struggling to deal with death in some sense. It also stands well by itself as a work of surprising depth, making it equally appropriate for adults. I highly recommend it.

Going Galt

A very wise man once told a story to a class I taught. His father was driving and for some reason became fixated on a ditch ahead, one that was encroaching on the road. He kept watching the ditch, determined not to drive into it – and drove right into it because the ditch became all he could see.

This is a depressing day for most of us. We lost nearly every single important political race we were involved in – every race that had consumed our hearts and souls. We still control the House of Representatives, but that’s it. Each of our shining stars was tarnished and destroyed by the media and the Democrat machine. For a year, we underwent heavy assault. We were outgunned and outmanned. In the end, the liberals were able to write our stories for us. 

This should not have been possible, and it was only possible because we allowed it. We saw the ditch – the liberals hurled insults and innuendos and lies at us. More space and time were taken up to call conservatives stupid and evil than to honest discussion of issues. In the end, we drove right into the ditch they dug for us, and here we are.

Now we have to get out of the ditch, fill it in to the degree possible. And go Galt, en masse.

Conservatives Going Galt

By now everyone should be familiar with the term “going Galt.” It is, of course, from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a book of at best middling skill but remarkable philosophical vision. In a collectivist society, John Galt refuses to allow his creative powers to be used for the society and to his detriment. Instead, he arranges a strike among those people whose skills and creative abilities power a government and social order that is harmful to them.

They all quit producing and withdraw to their own compound to wait out the inevitable fall of society. This is not evil; it probably minimized the damage. Such a society will fall eventually, no matter what. Rand, a Russian immigrant, knew precisely what happened under a government that believed “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs.” The most capable people shrug and drop out. They quit producing. Without their enormous productive capacity, the rest of society decays and falls into disorder.

In the stories of our real lives, the John Galts are, for the most part, not those at the top of companies, nor are they the ones at the bottom. They are, rather, the people in the middle. Without our middle class, our small-business creators and middle managers who do the real work, without the energetic churches and the TEA Party organizers, without the so-called bourgeoisie, both the other ends collapse.

Yet it is the middle class that is being destroyed today. The poor have more to fall back on than ever before; some estimates have the average resources of the poverty-level family calculated at around 60K per year. The wealthy are doing fine, as they usually do. But our country runs on the engine of the middle class, and they are the ones paying more in taxes and suffering from hidden inflation on basics like groceries, clothes, and gas. Meanwhile, they’re scrambling to replace lost income in order to keep from sliding down into poverty.

The middle class cannot realistically go Galt. We have families to feed. We are not prepared to go off the grid. But there are things we can do.

  • Go to church, or start attending a church if you never have. Even if you’re not Christian. A good church will give you the social structure you need for self-discipline and encouragement, and will also give you an outlet for the next piece –
  • Give only to causes you can control, and that are clearly conservative. Dump donations to United Way or to politicians who are not listening to you – and do not donate to large organizations like the RNC unless you have some direct control over what happens to your donation.
  • Stop spending money; save instead, pay off debt, and invest your cash in something that is inflation-proof.
  • If you have a small business, put money in automation, infrastructure, and marketing, not in new employees.
  • Become politically active. Make your voice heard. Tell your story.

The point is control. We cannot let control of our resources slip from our hands any further than they already have. That means we need to keep our money, our labor, our ideas, and our words for our own use. Going Galt, you see, ultimately means controlling what happens to those things that we create.