Title: From Where I Fell
Author: Susan Johnson
Published: March 2nd 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars
An anguished email from Pamela Robinson in Australia to her ex-husband in Paris accidentally ends up in the inbox of New York State teacher Chrisanthi Woods. Chrisanthi is sympathetic to Pamela’s struggles and the women begin to tell each other the stories and secrets of their lives.
Pamela, responsible for raising her three sons, must re-invent the meaning of home following her divorce, and Chrisanthi, her dreams long dampened, must find home by leaving it. Temperamental opposites, their emails turn into an exhilarating and provocative exchange of love, loss and fresh beginnings, by turns amusing, frank and confronting.
Susan Johnson is the author of both fiction and non-fiction titles. I read Johnson’s last novel The Landing back in 2015. From Where I Fell is an epistolary format novel, it is bold, daring and current, placing the spotlight on our emphasis on email communications. It follows an honest series of conversations that derive from an accidental email situation, igniting an unlikely friendship between two women on opposite ends of the globe.
Pamela Robinson is a woman who is at her wits end. We meet Pamela as she desperately reaches out to her ex-husband in Paris following the demise of their marriage. But Pamela’s email never reaches her ex-husband and in a twist of fate, it lands in the inbox of a woman living in New York. A teacher by the name of Chrisanthi Woods comes across the email and she is compelled to reply to this virtual stranger, who is expressing a great deal of heartache. This is the beginning of a year long exchange between these two very different women, who will never meet in person, but they will share their secrets and stories with one another. Gradually, as the emails bounce back and forth, we learn about Pamela’s difficult new role in supporting her three sons alone. While Chrisanthi has her own personal issues linked to her family life and hopes for the future. Big decisions are considered and discussed over the course of this pivotal year for the two women. Confessions are made, truths are expressed, fears are revealled and plans are put in place. Connective and raw, From Where I Fell is a considered novel from an original storyteller.
From Where I Fell is a creative and innovative fiction title. I enjoy epistolatory based novels, especially in the historical fiction genre, but From Where I Fell uses this correspondence format in the present day. I could easily envisage an accidental email exchange occurring in our current society. We live in a world where we have become reliant on internet and email communications to connect with people from one continent to another, due the impact of COVID-19. I liked the fact that Chrisanthi, the incorrect recipient of Pamela’s original email, didn’t choose to simply ignore Pamela’s email. This sets in motion a continued exchange of emails over the course of a year between these two strangers.
It is quite ambitious to take on a storyline focused on character and email communication exchanges. I admired Susan Johnson’s willingness to tackle quite a different and bold story idea. For some areas of the novel, I think that the author pulled off the exchanges between Pamela and Chrisanthi very well. It didn’t seem stilted or forced. There was definitely a sense of authenticity and connection that the reader could draw on. I did feel a little inappropriate being a watcher in a sense, as we are privy to some very honest and revealing moments between the two women. Johnson exposes a variety of different email responses, from heartbreaking confessions, angst ridden musings, curt responses and supportive feeds. I did falter in my emotional responses to these exchanges, I moved from frustration, to sadness, empathy, relief and anger! From Where I Fell was a readable novel that I was able to shift through very quickly, but it seemed to challenge me.
Susan Johnson closes off her novel with the same character that began the email mismatch situation a year earlier, but things are left unsaid with an open conclusion. Therefore the audience needs to read between the lines in terms of what the future holds for these two women. I think I admired the author’s creative flair with this novel, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped.
From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson was published on 2nd March 2021 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of From Where I Fell, Susan Johnson, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
From Where I Fell is book #47 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge