Monthly Archives: March 2016

Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Where did I get this book? I requested an ARC from the publisher, and they sent me one!

Where did I get this book? I requested an ARC from the publisher, and they sent me one!

Ten people are on board a small private plane when it leaves Martha’s Vineyard for New York. Eighteen minutes after take-off, the plane plummets into the ocean, the reason for the crash a mystery.

One man, a middle-aged painter named Scott Burroughs, survives and manages to save a four-year-old child. Scott quickly becomes the object of media obsession and government scrutiny. Why was he on the plane? How did he live through the crash? Was it part of a conspiracy or a terrorist plot? Or is he just lucky?

Scott has spent the last year on Martha’s Vineyard trying to start over. His youthful promise as an artist never bloomed into true success and he spent far too much time drinking himself into oblivion. With a year of sobriety behind him and a new series of paintings to show, Scott has finally found a cautious hope for the future when he accepts a ride on the doomed plane. The circumstances that led him to be on the flight, the chance moments that allowed him to survive: do they mean something, or are they simply random coincidences in a world determined by chance?

Thematically, Before the Fall reminded me a bit of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey; the author looks at each passenger on the flight in turn, examining each life and the path that led to that plane at that moment. Ben Kipling, a rich banker involved in some shady dealings, and his wife Sarah. Maggie Bateman, the woman who invites Scott to join them on the flight to New York; her husband David, the plane’s owner and the head of a polarizing 24-hour news channel; their nine-year-old daughter, Rachel, who had survived a kidnapping as a toddler. The family bodyguard, Gil Baruch. Pilot James Melody, and his crew Emma Lightner and co-pilot Charlie Busch.

As the search for the plane’s flight recorder and black box drags on, conspiracy theories thrive and speculations about Scott’s private life spread unchecked. Judged on plot alone, this novel is a fantastic read, a suspenseful search for the truth. Yet it is also a thoughtful and moving look at the myriad choices that make a life.

When I requested this ARC, I didn’t know much about it.  Before the Fall wildly exceeded my (admittedly non-existent) expectations. The official publication date is May 31, 2016–I predict a Gone Girl-level runaway bestseller!

Genre: Suspenseful disaster novel that will make you ponder the existential mysteries of life.

Read it if: You love books that hook you immediately and refuse to let go until you’ve reached the end; you enjoy plots that involve art and artists; you like your suspenseful thrillers with a heaping helping of deft characterization and compassionate humanity.

Skip it if: You have a phobia about air travel; you dislike strong language; you have a lot of things to do and can’t afford to stay up all night reading this book.

Movie-worthy: YES. This would make a fantastic movie. I demand to see this movie!