Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Fatboy Fall Down by Rabindranath Maharaj

Fatboy Fall Down by Rabindranath Maharaj
Published by ECW Press on the 9th April 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heartrending novel about one man’s search for meaning in a difficult life.

A child ridiculed for his weight, a son overshadowed by a favored brother, a husband who falls short of his wife’s ambitions, an old man with a broken heart… As Orbits’s life passes, he doggedly pursues a simple dream — a little place in the country where a family might thrive — while wondering if he can ever shake free of the tragedies that seem to define him. 

Fatboy Fall Down is the lush and heartbreaking musings of a man trying to understand his place in the world. Though shot through with sadness, Fatboy Fall Down is also full of surprising moments of wry humor, and Rabindranath Maharaj's deft touch underscores the resilience of the human spirit.

Fatboy Fall Down is a quirky novel not so much of a life lived, but of a life that passed by while its owner was absent-mindedly looking the other way. Orbits sees his personal history as one series of disasters after another. Mentally scarred by the bullying he endured as a child, he has become too used to seeing negatives and blaming others for his bad fortune so when good things happen to him, he doesn't notice their benefits. As such Orbits makes for a very unusual protagonist and one that I found exasperating as often as not! Fortunately he is surrounded by more vivacious people - his mother for example who, when she is elderly, has a wonderful sparring relationship with her nurse.

Maharaj shows the economic rise and fall of Orbit's island country (which I guess is Trinidad, but I don't think was ever actually named) over the course of his lifetime. We see oil revenues flood in and then fade away leaving problems in their wake both times. Orbits, of course, has his head too high in the clouds to realise what is happening, but I thought this brought up an interesting question. Most self help books demand their readers get out there and grasp every opportunity in order to be successful. Yet Orbits stumbles into good jobs, a marriage, an affair, and economic freedom without ever really trying. Perhaps, for some of us at least, good fortune is better waited for than chased?

I enjoyed reading Fatboy Fall Down although it did take me a while to get into the story. I felt as though the novel was drawing to a close at its mid-way point too before it got a second wind. Despite not liking Orbits as a person, he did keep me interested in his story and I loved getting to see so much of this beautiful island through his eyes. Maharaj has a gentle touch for humour so while the story explores some pretty dark issues such as bullying, dementia and suicide, I didn't think it ever felt like a depressing book. Instead, the contrasts between the characters and, especially, their outlooks on life, keep a light tone.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rabindranath Maharaj / Contemporary fiction / Books from Trinidad


  1. I find it interesting when you don't like the main character but the story is still good. It's such an intriguing position to be in. Sometimes the main character is supposed to be unlikeable but it doesn't seem like that is the case here.

    1. He's ambiguous here. I think probably meant to be a likeable person who's done unlikeable things, but I found myself drawn into his story even I'd be wary of meeting such a man in real life!