He makes me share his secret. I don’t like that so I’m going to kill him. I can do it, ‘cos I’ve done it before. Only that time, I didn’t mean to.
Sam Morgan is a typical eleven year old, until his mother Jennifer’s breakdown. His world changes when she comes out of hospital and he is confronted by a stranger. That’s when she starts drinking, when the shouting turns to slaps. That’s when she meets Billy, the latest stepfather, a man with a hidden agenda Sam is forced to share as the alcohol fuelled arguing between them intensifies.
At the age of thirteen, along with his younger sister, Megan, Sam is moved across the city to start a new life without Billy.
Sam discovers a new friend in Michael, the man across the street, and a place to escape his mother’s drunken moods, but the secret he shared comes back to haunt him. Through his own actions, a tragic accident shakes Sam to the core, leaving him guilt-ridden and more isolated than before.
Learning the truth about his mother’s past and confused over his sexuality, life no longer makes sense. Sam begins to come apart, sending him on a journey in search of the ‘real’ father who left him behind. His journey leads him to Ben, a troubled teen with his own story to tell, and a dark impermissible place Sam has already tasted.
What people say
In a week when the Guardian was bemoaning the lack of working class fiction, here we have a well-written and engaging story told from the point of view of a boy who definitely has not had the best start in life.
While the subject matter of this book is emotive, it does draw you in and make you want to read further. Watching Sam deal with the traumas and evolve within his persona triggered an in-depth response I didn't realise existed. Reading the story from a child's perspective was an eye opening experience. As adults we forget how children process and interpret the behaviours of adults and how they trust us to teach them right from wrong. A truly inspired read from a new author engaging both the novice and more experienced reader. The characters have individual and depicted status giving insight in to the world that we all would truly fear to tread.
This is an amazing first novel by a new author to me and I am looking forward to reading more of his works. It is thought provoking and totally believable. I like the way that it is written from a young lad's perspective instead of an adult as is the norm. Well done Christopher. Bring on the next
Now and again you read something that makes you stop and catch your breath. It grabs your attention and draws you in. That is the way it was reading ‘Running through Still Waters’ by Christopher Tiller. I liked the way it was told from a child’s perspective. It is the coming of age of a young boy called Sam and he reflects back and forth on different times in his life from the age of 11 to 13.
The characters are sometimes simple and other times complex. You have little physical information and this let me put faces and voices to each of the different characters which was a good way to let the reader become part of the story making process. I used memories and experiences to help me to visualise which made the experience more enjoyable for me. As the location is ambiguous I was able to relate it to where I lived and the community I know.
The story is not predictable and there are times when I thought I knew what was going to happen and it didn’t. It stirs many emotions in you and often changes quickly from joy to despair. As the story unfolds it gets better and better. Well worth the read and it has me looking forward to reading more of this author’s works. Definitely not a chick flick type holiday special. You will need tissues, wine and chocolate ladies. Enjoy.
This is an extraordinary, gripping, moving, troubling story and I take my hat off to you for telling it in the first place and also for the way you do this.
Your sparse, direct and unfussy prose, combined with an unflinching authenticity make for a devastating portrayal of a boy's appalling childhood. Not since Bud in Terence Davies' 'The Long Day Closes' have I felt so much anguish over someone’s coming of age. You paint a bleak universe in looming monochrome from which only the odd cheerful 'hello' of a friend's mother and the ordered sanity of Michael's world - which may as well be on a different planet to Samuel's - offer the occasional ray of hope or reprieve.
Reading Running Through Still Waters is not just 'uncomfortable', as your modest advisory notice warns, it is downright painful. But for all the right reasons: between every chapter I felt like coming up for air, not wanting to go back down again, but knowing that I had to: Samuel and his quiet plight demanded it. Over and over again I found myself shouting out loud at his mother, to get a grip, to give him some love, some attention, some human warmth and kindness.
Whenever I see in film or read in a book the story of a 'troubled childhood', I get the hoobles myself. I know there are dreadful things about to happen and I want to stop them from happening, but I can't, because they're already there: they've already been put on the screen or written down on the page. And for a reason. Because much as I'd like to shut my eyes to these lives, I can't, because I know that even today, there will be dozens, maybe hundreds, I fear thousands of children in this country alone going through the kind of hell you describe.
This book took my breath away more than once.
Told from a young boy's perspective, Sam's life is a heartbreaking read. A hard hitting, jaw dropping first novel that takes you right into Sam's headspace and leaves you emotionally drained. Easily as good as a Shane Meadows script, the dialogue shocks and entertains in equal measure.
I'm hoping that like This is England, we get a second and third sequel taking us back into Sam's life.