How to Save a Life by S D Robertson


You can’t have a rainbow, without a little rain…

When a stranger saves Luke’s life, he knows he’s been given a second chance. He’s going to make it count – and, determined to live each day to its fullest, he starts by saying yes to everything life has to offer.

Slowly but surely, Luke learns that a little bit of blue-sky thinking can go a long way, and things start to look up.

But when Luke’s new resolve is tested, will he return to his old ways? Or can one fateful moment truly save a life.

A life-affirming story about a man who is given a second chance, perfect for fans of Mike Gayle and Imogen Clark.

How to Save a Life is one of the oldest books on my NetGalley shelf. It has sat there far too long, since 2020. It’s the second book I’ve read by S D Robertson (the first was If Ever I Fall), which is why I requested it. It’s an emotional story, character driven, narrated solely by Luke, a barber, with a pessimistic outlook on life. His parents died in a tragic accident, then just a fortnight before Christmas his wife told him she’d been having an affair and left him. He is wallowing in misery, living alone with his cat, Alfred. Until he meets Iris. They were both sheltering from a sudden storm under scaffolding when a violent gust brought the building and scaffolding down on them – Luke survived, but Iris didn’t. She had saved his life, pushing him out of the way as the scaffolding collapsed.

Iris’s death has a powerful effect on Luke, especially when he learns what a wonderful person she was – a doctor who was passionate about volunteering her services for a charity scheme in Africa. He felt guilty that he had survived and vowed to change his outlook and his life, trying to be more like Iris.

This book is not my usual choice of genre, but I think it is an interesting book that did give me food for thought. I liked the setting in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and I could easily visualise Luke’s barber’s shop and its surroundings. However, it is repetitive as Luke analyses his feelings and actions over and over again, and it’s slow paced because of that. He has several setbacks as things don’t all turn out how he had hoped, but it is a heart-warming story, if a little predictable.

My thanks to Avon, the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

  • ASIN: ‎ B07Z4BBBF9
  • Publisher ‏: ‎ Avon (11 Jun. 2020)
  • Print length: 397 pages
  • Review copy
  • My rating : 3*

If Ever I Fall by S D Robertson

It’s always a bit of a gamble reading a book by an author you’ve never heard of before, but I thought If Ever I Fall by S D Robertson looked as though it would be a book I would like. It’s a story about a family in crisis, struggling to come to terms with a terrible tragedy. It is his second book, due to be published on 9 February 2017.

And reading the Prologue it seemed as though I was right. It begins mysteriously as a man surfaces from his dreams only to discover that he doesn’t know who he is. It appears that Miles has rescued him and tells him he had suffered a head trauma. He calls him Jack. But as I read on I became confused and struggled a bit to follow the narrative.

It’s difficult to write about this book without giving away spoilers. The structure of the novel confused me at first because the story moves between three characters’ perspectives – Maria, Dan, her husband and Jack- and between different time periods.

Maria’s side of things is told in letters to Sam moving forwards in time, whereas Dan’s story begins in the present and moves backwards in time, and Jack’s is timeless. At first I had to keep checking the chapter titles to find out what time period I was reading until I got the hang of it. It shouldn’t really have been that difficult as the style of each is different but it did take me a while to get into the story.

Maria’s letters are quite stilted – maybe that’s what they were meant to be as she is struggling to sort out and write her thoughts so that Sam will understand. Her letters are full of grief. But they are long-winded explanations of what she was thinking and feeling and they slowed down the narrative too much for me. She obsessed about her OCD, but maybe I’m being over critical and insensitive here because being obsessive is the essence of the condition after all, but it became quite dull to read. I was more interested in Dan’s story and especially in Jack’s.

It is Jack’s story that captivated me the most and each time the narrative went to Maria or Dan I wanted to get back to Jack to find out what was happening to him – because some very strange things were going on around him. He can’t work out if he can trust Miles who tells him that he is helping him to renovate a house by the sea. But Jack keeps finding that he is in other places, as a fog descends upon him, or he finds himself trapped in a tunnel unable to move, and he sees people who Miles tells him aren’t there. Whereas, Maria’s and Dan’s stories show them dealing with the same events in different ways, culminating in one tremendous tragedy  and growing increasingly apart. All three narratives are full of emotional and psychological tension.

About half way into the book I began to work out the storyline and how the three narratives linked together and was able to settle into enjoying the book, which did work out as I had anticipated.

It’s about what happens to family relationships hit by the most terrible tragedy, how grief affects us in different ways, and the psychological and emotional impact of amnesia and obsessive compulsive disorder. I think if the novel had followed the story in a straight forward chronological order it would not have had as much impact on me. It certainly gave me much to think about as I was reading it and afterwards.

My thanks to Avon Books UK and NetGalley for a review copy.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1149 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (9 Feb. 2017)

4 *