What a brilliant concept for a book – how many books have you read where a plane crashes (or a huge disaster happens) and it’s detailed in a few pages and the story continues. I love the idea that Hawley has a taken one such disaster and turned it into an entire book. Not only looking at the crash itself and the reason for it but also the people that were involved.
The rich are different. But fate is blind.
Down-on-his-luck artist Scott Burroughs would usually take the ferry back to New York from Martha’s Vineyard, but he is unexpectedly offered a spare seat on the Bateman family’s private jet. Then just minutes after take-off, the plane crashes into the ocean and of the eight passengers and three crew, only Scott and the Batemans’ small son, JJ, are left alive.
The extraordinary nature of their survival, combined with the fact that David Bateman was CEO of a populist TV news channel, means that Scott will not be returning to anonymity. Along with the orphaned boy, he is engulfed by a maelstrom of speculation, which soon overtakes the official investigation into the tragedy.
Who else was on the plane? Was there a bomb, a missile? Who is Scott Burroughs?
As the chapters drive towards their heart-stopping conclusion, weaving with ever-increasing suspense between the shocking aftermath of the crash and the intimate backstory of each of the passengers and crew members, Noah Hawley creates a searching, thrilling novel of love, fame, wealth, art, entertainment and power.
This book is ‘people-watching’ at its finest – some of you will know instantly what I mean by that but for those that don’t, let me explain… Have you ever gone out to dinner or anywhere socially and took a moment to watch the people around you, animatedly in conversation or that couple walking past arguing, or the woman pushing the pram and wondered… wondered what their life is like, if they’re happy, successful, where they could be going or returning from, the life they live etc etc – that’s ‘people-watching.’ Or have you watched the news when a natural disaster has happened and you start wondering about the lives lost, who the people were, who they left behind, how the survivors will cope etc etc – that’s ‘people-watching’ too. The point is, it’s something I always find myself doing so to read a book dedicated to this, to intricately examining the lives of those on the plane, and the events that followed, was of great interest to me.
“Everyone has their path. The choices they’ve made. How any two people end up in the same place at the same time is a mystery. You get on an elevator with a dozen strangers. You ride a bus, wait in line for the bathroom. It happens every day. To try to predict the places we’ll go and people we’ll meet would be pointless.”
To predict may be pointless but I love to wonder… instead of wondering, Hawley delivered, laid bare to us the things we can often only wonder about. Hawley slowed down time and allowed us to get to know the characters, those that died and those that lived and I commend him for that. I must confess, there were a few times throughout, when I thought the characters’ backstories were a bit bland, I can only attribute that to it keeping the storyline realistic, but this is fiction and I’d have liked a bit more entertainment at times.
I loved the characters that survived the plane crash – Scott and JJ – how events threw them together and they were forced to cope with it, the suspense Hawley created surrounding these two characters had me holding my breath, waiting to see how they would cope in the aftermath of the crash. I’d have loved to have seen more paragraphs focusing on interactions between these two.
Regarding the media circus surrounding Scott, it was realistic but I just wasn’t that invested. I enjoyed the multiple points of view utilised in this story but the news reporter irritated me to no end, and I just wish his character did not exist!
So, what about the mystery of the plane crash itself? Sadly, I wasn’t invested in this at all, why the plane crashed, was it human error, deliberate, did the plane malfunction? All this was secondary to me. A few people had mentioned to me, that they thought the ending fell short, and I must agree. The ripple effect that was created due to the reason, I loved, but as the main mystery of the novel, I thought it fell short. Again, I love the idea of showing how the past impacts the future – the chain of events, but I found this mystery weak in delivery, lacking any real shock factor or thrill. I felt a bit deflated that after enjoying the book, I lost my connection with the story, I feel the story deserved a monumental ending or even one that left me thinking about it, long after I finished reading it.
Overall, there was some parts of this story I absolutely loved but in equal measure there were some parts I really disliked; I’m kind of lost in limbo on this one – I awarded it a three star rating on Goodreads.