Wednesday, August 2, 2017

31. Before the Fall

A fantastic summer blockbuster. An action movie. Pace + character + mystery. A palate cleanser.

That's the best way I can describe Noah Hawley's book. It caught my eye at the library last week because: 1) It was a 14-day loaner, which means people want it. 2) There were multiple copies, which means something at my tiny neighborhood library. 

I found myself instantly hooked and I read it all over the course of 24 hours. It was a beach read, which in the inland northwest where I live actually means reading on a lounge chair next to the lazy river at the county pool. See below.

The story begins where lives end. A private plane carrying powerful men and their families crashes off the shores of Martha's Vineyard. Everyone dies on impact except a four year old boy and a painter who just happened to score a seat on the flight. They make a miraculous swim to shore, then have to navigate life after the crash. The world wants to know: why did it crash? Was it terrorism at the hands of a foreign government? Did the random painter have something to do with it? We don't know until the very end. Along the way, the author lays out the lives of those on board and sends you chasing down speculative paths about who on board might have been a target for something sinister. I like that the reader does find out why the plane crashed, but sings a few different tunes before the conclusion.

The author clearly knows how to create character and drama; he created the TV show Fargo, for goodness sake. Like any good TV drama or action movie on screen, he develops intrigue through cliffhanger-ending chapters and quick takes. I felt myself wanting to push forward to a conclusion.

Like most action movies, though, it didn't leave much behind to learn from. I was completely satisfied with the book and it was totally worth the read, but it didn't do anything that knocked my socks off or will stay with me beyond that initial satisfaction. That's not a bad thing, mind you. It's the kind of book you need to throw in between heavier sets. A breath. A summer afternoon. 

The way this book ends - the cause of the crash - falls in line with a theory out there about the main motivation between a lot of violence in our world. There are experts who believe nearly every mass shooting is motivated by a man who was rejected by a woman (or women.) I've read analyses of school shootings and workplace violence that support this theory and I look to it first when these horrible tragedies occur. This book seems to prove that point: that while we often look for deep, complicated meaning and cause for events, it's often as simple as a woman who turned down a man - and, the hit on his pride that is then taken out on the world at large.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it sure felt like that was the point the author made here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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