Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Falling Woman

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill: 6/23/20
eBook review copy; 336 pages 

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell is a recommended debut novel about tragedy, privacy, and the right to control your own story.

A plane on a cross-country flight comes apart in mid-air over Kansas. A young National Transportation Safety Board investigator, Charlie Radford, is sent as part of the team that will investigate and determine what caused the crash. When people begin to talk about a woman who survived the crash, everyone knows that surviving such a crash is nearly impossible. It is said that she was found in a barn, still strapped into her seat. She was taken to the hospital, but later quietly left without telling anyone. Charlie ends up investigating the woman, starting with the crash and then trying to find her.

Erin Geraghty, a lawyer who is married and has two children in college, has pancreatic cancer. When she embarked on her flight and impossibly survived, she was already essentially on her way to death, so she wanted to live out her days in peace without media scrutiny and allow her family to grieve her. She called her former lover who drove her to his cabin, where she hid out and did not contact her family. When Charlie Radford ends up finding her, he wants her to come forward, but she's not interested.

The focus of the plot is the right to control our own story, the right of privacy, and our responsibilities to our love ones. The narrative alternates between the characters of Charlie and Erin. A big part of the plot involves the personal lives of these two characters. Charlie does not want children, but his wife does. Erin does not want to put her husband and twin daughters through any more turmoil after her ongoing cancer treatment. In many ways the inclusion of trivial details about Charlie and Erin's personal lives detracted from the overriding message of the plot. For example, Erin's marriage lacks passion so she had an affair, but she also left her husband and children not knowing she was alive as they were trying to identify victims. Speaking as a mother, this is unthinkable and a cruel thing to do to your family. Charlie's constant fights with his wife over having a child needed a serious discussion and not just a constant mention. The writing is good in this debut novel, but also seems to drag on for too long in the middle. The plot is an interesting story but at times it strains credulity.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

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