Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

At the core, this book is a simple story about a private plane that crashes, leaving two survivors: the four year old son of parents who died in the crash, and Scott Burroughs, a struggling artist. What makes the book that much more enthralling and rewarding is the well crafted way the author takes us through each of the personalities on the plane, and breathes – somewhat ironically – real life into these doomed individuals. Of course, the fact that there’s a mystery to unravel as to what caused the crash, also helps.

The passengers on the plane include a right wing TV news tycoon, and a (er….) high flying business man with lots of money, lots of influence, and lots of dodgy deals to his credit. However, the shining star is Burroughs, as he discovers the joy and pain of suddenly being the center of attention. This is another irony, given that he has spent his life trying to achieve recognition for his art. His canvases portraying disasters, including a plane crash, allow some to form unfavorable opinions about the man. We readers, however, get to see the whole view, and should benefit from the perspective we are given.

There are several strong undercurrents as the author offers a peak into media incitement, power, and corruption, as well as the embattled human spirit trying to cope with a chaotic world. The investigative forces deployed following the crash also get some coverage, with no lack of attention to the quality of the characters and the pitching of their involvement in the story.

It seemed to me that the author’s care and consideration for his characters – good and bad – was reflected in the high quality of the writing, and that the story flowed easily, carrying the reader along. At the same time, there are no flashy flourishes, nor attempts to show how clever the author is. (He’s clever, but he’s not boastful.)

I highly recommend this book as an example of a well written, well rounded, thoughtful, entertainment.