And Then She Fell

Alicia Elliott

And Then She Fell
Allen & Unwin
3 October 2023

And Then She Fell

Alicia Elliott

On the surface, Alice is exactly where she should be in life: she's just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Dawn; her ever-charming husband Steve-a white academic whose area of study is conveniently her own Mohawk culture-is nothing but supportive; and they've moved into a new home in a wealthy neighbourhood in Toronto, a generous gift from her in-laws.

But Alice could not feel more like an imposter. She isn't bonding with Dawn, a struggle made more difficult by the recent loss of her own mother. Every waking moment is spent hiding her despair from Steve and their picture-perfect neighbours, amongst whom she's the sole Indigenous resident.

Her perpetual self-doubt hinders the one vestige of her old life she has left: writing a modern retelling of the Haudenosaunee creation story.

And then strange things start happening.

Alice finds herself hearing voices she can't explain and speaking with things that should not be talking back to her, all while her neighbours' passive aggression begins to morph into something far more threatening. Though Steve urges her this is all in her head, Alice suspects something is very, very wrong, and that her creation story holds the key to her, and Dawn's, survival... She just has to finish it before it's too late...


Alice is a member of the Mohawk nation and a new mother living in Toronto with Steve, her loving, white, professor husband. Steve specialises in the study of her tribe and is even learning to speak Mohawk. Alice is unsure if this is to increase his chances of tenure or to impress her. Their child, Dawn, is an extremely difficult baby and Alice is struggling with feeding and bonding. The first half of the book contains a lot of backstory so that the reader has some understanding of how Alice avoided teen pregnancy on ‘the rez’, her very strained relationship with her mother (and her mother’s battle with mental illness), and her closeness with her cousin and best friend, Dana.

Alice is suffering from what seems at first to be postnatal depression, but is possibly a wider mental health breakdown. She believes that if she can write the creation tale of her tribe, the Haudenosaunee Creation Story, she will be able to save her daughter and herself. The second half of this novel chronicles her deterioration and is replete with talking cockroaches, Pocahontas addressing her from the television set, and corrosive paranoia about her probably racist neighbours. This narrative becomes increasingly obscure and hallucinatory. The author acknowledges in her introduction that she had her own fully manic and psychotic episode while researching postnatal psychosis for this novel and it gave her greater understanding and compassion for her mother who had never spoken of her own bipolar disorder.

This novel examines the difficulties of navigating through different worlds, cultures and histories. The author manages this task with admirable dexterity and grace.

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