Book Review: Before the Fall (Noah Hawley)

Before the Fall is a book that really defies any attempt to categorize it. The setup is relatively simple. Scott Burroughs, a washed up painter befriends a rich trophy wife in Martha’s Vineyard and hitches a ride back to NYC on their private jet. That jet crashes and Scott is the sole adult survivor and saves a four year old boy named JJ with an amazing 15 mile swim from the crash site to the shore.

Not long after the swim, questions begin piling up next to the new (and unwanted) notoriety for Scott. Did the crash have anything to do with the Wall Street criminal that was on the flight? Or the Roger Ailes stand in? Was it related to a kidnapping, a co-pilot with drugs in his system, an Israeli bodyguard or a pilot with a history of nosebleeds?

On one track of the book the crash is explored through the eyes of the FBI and NTSB as well as the victims of the crash up to the moment of impact.

On the other track of the book, Scott is dealing with his celebrity and the pitfalls that come with it. Bill Cunningham (a stand in for Bill O’Reilly) is using the death of his friend on the flight to pump up his ratings, attacking Scott and some of his friends who have liberal leanings. Scott is also still concerned with the boy JJ, now living with a $103 million trust fund in upstate New York with his aunt and her loser husband. And there is the small matter of the FBI looking into Scott’s paintings; all of disasters.

Frankly, it is a hard book to explain. Part of the interest in the book is figuring out whether Scott had anything to do with the crash and whether or not it was even a crime or just simple mechanical failure. Watching Scott’s journey through the book is watching the work of a master storyteller.

I will say that those looking for an explosive thriller will probably leave disappointed. This isn’t Fargo. It is something more tender and beautiful. It is a book you will think about long after you close the cover.

Thank you to Amazon and Netgalley for providing ARCs for this wonderful book.

Credit: Matthew Erwin

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