Once again, my well-read friend did not lead my astray when it comes to book recommendations. Last summer, in one his emails he sang the praises of Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall, even though he was only half-way through the book. Since sending that email, I couldn’t help but notice the tons of accolades and awards Hawley’s 2016 novel has earned. This told me once again, my friend knows a good book when he sees one. So, with all that in mind it’s no surprise when I found a copy at my public library I grabbed it, despite having several other library books I was trying to get read before their respective due dates. Fear not, my decision to put everything else aside was the right one because my goodness, Before the Fall is fantastic page-turning and worth every ounce of hype it’s generated.
The premise is a simple one but like that of many great stories as things unfold one learns that nothing about Before the Fall is quite that simple. One evening a private plane with 11 passengers and crew takes off from Martha’s Vineyard for what should be a fairly short and uneventful trip to New York City. 16 minutes later the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are a four-year old boy and a middle-aged painter. Fortunately for the two of them, the painter swam competitively both in high school and college and recently started hitting the pool again. Once they make it to shore, the man, thanks to his heroic efforts becomes the 24 news cycle’s latest hero of the week, much to his dissatisfaction. His inability to remember details of the crash not only frustrates government investigators but also fuels speculations that somehow, no matter how unlikely it seems was somehow responsible.
It’s no coincidence the novel is called Before the Fall since the heart and soul of this novel is its backstory, specifically the lives of the 11 characters leading up to the moment they boarded the doomed aircraft. Among the victims is the CEO of a thinly disguised Fox News Network; (whose star broadcast personality, an equally thinly disguised Bill O’Reilly sees the crash as part of some liberal government conspiracy or act of terrorism); a Wall Street heavy-hitter under indictment for laundering cash from rogue nations like North Korea and Iran; a former Israeli special forces badass turned private security specialist; and lastly a beautiful, young and slightly wise beyond her years flight attendant.
Before the Fall is an outstanding work of fiction and easily exceeded my expectations, which is no small feat considering all the hype surrounding this novel. Not only should you consider Before the Fall highly recommended, there’s also a strong likelihood you’ll see it included on my year-end Best Fiction list.