Saturday, August 6, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This book was on my radar, but not on the "I've just got to read it now!" radar.  I put myself on the hold list at the library, but soon realized it would probably be next year before I would reach the top of the list.  That just wouldn't do.  I was contemplating buying the hardcover, when my friend Kirk talked about the book at our monthly book club and offered up his copy to anyone who wanted to read it.  

When the book gods offer up a book you want to read, you take it.  It was immediately bumped up to this month's TBR pile so I wouldn't lose it at home, forget to read it, or have to keep telling Kirk "I'm going to read it soon".  

Before the Fall is a pretty quick read.  Noah Hawley is a very talented writer of tv shows (Fargo, Bones), and that talent shows in the back and forth that happens in the novel.  I'm not giving anything away when I give you the plot of the story:  a very rich couple vacations on Martha's Vineyard in August.  They are heading back to New Jersey on a private plane.  They've invited along another couple, and an artist who's hitching a ride back to New Jersey.  The couple Maggie and David Bateman also have their two kids on board:  nine year old Rachel and four year old JJ.  Also along for the ride is the Bateman's security guard, Gil Baruch.  A simple flight, taking less than an hour.  

Except 16 minutes into the flight, the plane crashes into the ocean.  Only two people survive:  Scott Burroughs, the artist, and little JJ.  

How does the plane crash?  Why?  Was it a mechanical failure, or something more ominous?  There are plenty of possibilities.  The novel moves from Scott's experience after the crash to each person on the plane, and the days leading up to the crash.  One strange bit is that the date of each person's death: August 23, 2015 is the same except for Gil Baruch's:  his is August 26th, 2015.  What the heck does that mean?  

Another kicker:  Scott doesn't remember what happened.  He hit his head, and next thing he knows, he's in the ocean, surrounded by flames.  And then he hears a cry.  It's JJ, floating on a piece of debris.  

It's a pretty good book.  I wouldn't say it's a thriller; more of a mystery.  The novel also looks at the way the 24 hour news treats tragedies; how they treat survivors, and through it all is the sense of how abruptly life can end for some of us without any warning.  What makes this such a big news story is the fact that Bateman was the head of a Fox-like news company (worth millions), and the other couple, Ben and Sarah Kipling, are also millionaires.  And Ben just found out he's going to be indicted for money laundering the next day.  Will they find the plane?  Will the FBI figure out what happened?  And how will Scott move forward, knowing he's got a second chance?

I enjoyed this novel.  It was a complete switch from reading about baking and Vermont.  The ending, oh, it just felt like a punch in the stomach to me.  

Rating:  8/10 for a novel that sucks you into the lives of characters that perish in the first chapter, but haunt you throughout the story.  A good read!

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.

1 comment :

  1. I liked this too for entertainment value mostly. One of my reading groups discussed it and we were all wondering about the ending, which didn't quite work for me and same with the mysterious different date for Gil's death. Things my friend calls inexplainities.