Friday, May 21, 2021

The Falling Woman

  The Falling Woman
Author:  Richard Farrell
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2020. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1616208570 / 978-1616208578

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "...and then my seat gives way and black sky siphons me through a gaping hole in the fuselage, my body aspirating through the suddenly ruptured coach-class ceiling like a lottery ball in a pneumatic tube."

Favorite Quote:  "The most extraordinary moments in life are often the most ordinary ones. Why is that so hard to see?"

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Erin Geraghty is facing a death sentence - a battle with a cancer from which there is no recovery. She is interrupting her treatment to go away for a week to a survivor's retreat. Her daughters are away in college. Her husband wants her to stay and plans the next step of the treatment. Erin leaves. She gets on a plane. The plane explodes at 30,000 feet. Everyone on board dies, except one. Erin. What are the odds of that - anyone surviving at all and then the person surviving being the ones with possibly only months to live?

On the other side of the plane crash is Charlie Radford, a young National Transportation Safety Board investigator. Charlie is dealing with the scars of his childhood, the challenges of his marriage, and his need to prove himself without fully understanding what that means. Health reasons prevented Charlie from his dream of being a pilot. The study and investigation of plane crashes seemed an alternative. What lessons will he learn from investigating Erin's survival?

The beginning of the book is challenging to follow as it introduces many different characters, goes between Erin's story and Charlie's story, and goes between time periods - the day of the crash and a Congressional hearing months later. I find myself confused for a while until the story settles more into its chronological sequences in the days following the crash.

The set up lends itself to a book with philosophical musing and epiphanies about life, a book with important life lessons, and a book with statements on faith and belief. That does come to an extent, for this event is life altering, not just for Erin but also for Charlie.

However, this character driven novel ends up more about the issue of privacy and the violation of the privacy for political reasons. The plot of the book is simple. A plane crashes. A team investigates. Did someone survive or not? If so, who and how?

Subsequently, the book goes in the direction of the government and politics and the media coverage of the crash and the ensuing investigation. Unfortunately, both the government and the media are portrayed in a negative light. The one-sided presentation is stereotypical and lacks depth.

The most interesting thing about this character driven book is that I enjoy the story but do not care for either of the main characters. They are imperfect and flawed, which should make them more real and relatable, but somehow it makes them less empathetic. I feel sorry for Erin as a terminally ill individual. Yet, the story reveals details of lies and an affair and an unhappiness in her marriage left unexplored. I end up feeling more sorry for her family. Charlie fights the demons of his childhood but, time and time again, shuts out and refuses to communicate with his wife who he professes to love dearly. I end up thinking more about her than him. Realistic? Perhaps. Empathetic? No.

At the end, the book's premise was intriguing and promising. The story keeps me reading until the end, but I leave not fully satisfied, looking for something more.

About the Author

Richard Farrell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former pilot who holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Hunger Mountain, upstreet, New Plains Review, Potomac Review, Descant, and elsewhere. Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, he teaches creative writing at Grossmont College in San Diego, where he lives with his wife and two children. This is his first novel.

Richard Farrell grew up obsessed with flying, and he began taking flying lessons at 16. “I spent countless hours staring at vapor contrails in the sky, identifying airplane silhouettes, and listening to the trembling whir of turboprops on winter nights,” he explains. “Well on my way to achieving my dream, I suffered a seizure in the cockpit of a Navy training jet, and my flying career ended. I was 23. I knew I could never again pilot an airplane, and I struggled with this for a long time, more than a decade. The loss of my pilot’s wings eventually led me to writing fiction, and THE FALLING WOMAN emerged from my journey as a fledgling aviator, and from the deep and rich mythology of aviation. It helped me reconstruct my dream.” 

About the Book

It gives me great pleasure to share Richard Farrell’s exhilarating debut novel THE FALLING WOMAN (Publication Date: May 11, 2021; $16.95), a deeply moving look at the tensions between family loyalty and personal desires, and a provocative examination of the value of privacy in this age of saturation media. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Farrell drew from historical incidents of passengers surviving impossible plane crashes, and from his own experience as a pilot, to craft this propulsive, complex tale. “What would you do if you were confronted with a miracle?” asks Robin Oliveira, author of Winter Sisters. “That is the essential question posed in THE FALLING WOMAN. Part mystery and part prayer, this page-turner about mortality is iridescent.”

Erin Geraghty is on her way to a survivor’s retreat when she boards her flight. Facing a losing battle with cancer, with diminishing hope of a full recovery, she considers herself essentially dead to her loved ones, resigned to a fate of failed medical interventions and long, painful goodbyes. Then she awakens in a barn still strapped to her seat, the sole survivor of the catastrophic crash of Pointer Airlines Flight 795. Assumed to have died in the crash, she is intent on remaining dead to the world and to her family, to live out her final days in peace. Charlie Radford, a young National Transportation Safety Board investigator, is part of the team sent to determine what caused the crash. When he hears a rumor of a survivor, he assumes it is a hoax, but as word of this “miracle” reaches the media and Congress, Radford is forced to track down “the falling woman.” Can he find Erin and convince her to come forward—and does he have any right to?

Tense, thrilling, and deeply profound, THE FALLING WOMAN examines what it means to be singled out by luck or destiny, and explores what we owe to our loved ones in our final days, and what we owe ourselves.

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