When my library book club voted on the second half of the year’s selections, Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall was one of the options to read. I was not enthused by the tagline—suspense thriller about two survivors of a plane crash. I’m picky about mystery, and I am even more particular when it comes to suspense. I defer to Ms. Angela Martin of The Office in one and only one question of taste:
Anyway, I was not excited that it was the FIRST book on the June schedule, but I decided to be a good sport and read it. I will say off the bat that this is actually badly billed as a suspense novel, but it is certainly worth the read.
Eleven people embark on a private jet from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City, but only two survive the flight: poor painter Scott and scion to a news network, four-year-old J.J. Bateman. The plane crash is the premise of the book, and what follows is a series of flashbacks and present-day episodes that chronicle what happens in the crash’s wake. There’s a story to each of the crash victims, as well as a network TV host that’s an interesting conglomeration of Bill O’Reilly and Alex Jones, and J.J.’s aunt who’s married to a greedy, deadbeat husband.
What surprised me most about this novel was its commentary on toxic masculinity. I won’t get into the spoilery parts of the book that bring me to this reading, but I remember nodding my head and saying, “Yes, these things do happen.” He also criticizes the 24-hour news cycle, especially the incendiary and biased news put forth by networks making money off gullible people. I won’t say which one he’s parodying, but I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with Box Blues. I give Hawley credit for elevating what could have remained a beach read and trying to make meaningful contemporary criticism from it. Although there were large descriptive swathes of writing that could have been trimmed, and it needed another round of solid edits, this was an interesting and engaging read. The second half particularly moves much faster than the first half.
Cross-posted to my blog.