Doug Johnstone (2015) The Jump

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I came to read Doug Johntone’s  The Jump, sideways. I’d never heard of the guy, but read a review and thought, aye. And I’m glad I did. Doug Johnstone is the business.

If I need to talk about setting, then you’ve got it wrong. Ellie does the work for you. She knows every park bench and every pebble that has rolled down a hill around the Forth Road Bridge and South Queensferry. It’s imprinted on the page.

Ellie likes the pain of tattoos, a reminder, not that she needs one, of her son, Logan, who jumped off the bridge. No reason. He just jumped. His suicide took around 5.6 seconds.

Ben, Ellie’s husband, follows up every conspiracy theory that could account for Logan’s suicide. Something in the water. Something in the air. Someone spinning out of orbit and threatening not to come back again.

Ellie and Ben don’t really want to live. Time doesn’t bring healing, but reminders of what they’ve lost. Then Ellie gets a second chance. She coaxes Sam down from the struts of the bridge, stops him from committing suicide. He’s a boy, slightly older than Logan. She offers a change of clothing, Logan’s casual wear, and a new start.

Ellie finds redemption in Sam and a reason to live. Sam finds a saviour. Ellie promises him she’ll fix whatever has happened in his life, make it better. He asks awkward questions, like how? Ellie admits she doesn’t know.

Then Ellie finds out to save Sam she needs to save his wee sister, Libby. To save the family, she needs to save their mum and get rid of their father, who’s a cop. She needs Ben’s help. They need to do the right thing, while staying the wrong side of the law.

‘The trick was not to give anyone a reason to look.’

Quests ask questions of the reader. Whose side are you on? I’m with Ellie. She’s human in the way we’re meant to be. A fucking marvel that bleeds on the page. I’m with Doug Johnson. I’ll be reading more of his work.


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