Here’s a morbid fact about me that you might not know: I’m slightly obsessed with plane crashes and their subsequent investigations. I mean, generally, I’m just absolutely in love with planes because we use them to freaking fly. Sometimes I even enjoy the flight more than the destination! For this review, though, let’s just focus on the plane crash part.
When I first saw the synopsis of Richard Farrell’s The Falling Woman, I was immediately hooked. The novel is about a woman who falls out of an exploding plane and survives, and the investigator tasked with finding her and learning her story. I’m super thankful for Algonquin for sending me a review copy.
The novel is told is two perspectives, which are woven together perfectly. First, we meet Erin, aka “The Falling Woman.” Dying from advanced pancreatic cancer, she decides to book a flight to a retreat for cancer victims on the west coast in order to get away from everything, including her family, for a bit of time. Then we meet the National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Charlie, who is on his first big assignment. He’s tasked with IDing the victims of the plane crash, and ultimately with discovering the truth of Erin’s survival.
Aside from their parts in the primary plot of the novel, each character has a trial in their own lives that they’re trying to deal with at the same time. For Erin, it’s the cancer that’s killing her, the stoic husband who seems to have no passion in life, and the affair she had. When it comes to Charlie, he’s struggling with his wife’s desire to have children, something that Charlie doesn’t want.
Erin’s story line was intriguing, and it was interesting to learn her motivations for the actions she took and the way she feels about the world and her family. I certainly didn’t agree with everything she did and at times found it difficult to sympathize with her, but I sort of liked that. It can be boring to read about a character who does “all the right things.” We learn why she had the affair, why she’s gone missing after surviving a catastrophic event, and about her outlook on the world, her impending death, and her responsibility to her family. Her story arc fit in nicely with the overall plot of the novel and made her character far more complex.
Charlie’s story arc, however, didn’t add much to the overall book. I suppose the author had to give him some kind of inner conflict because otherwise he would be boring, but I think it could have been more interesting. Whereas Erin’s arc ties directly into the overall plot, Charlie’s didn’t, and I found myself wanting to push through those parts to get to the meatier bits of the story.
Keeping in mind what I said about being mildly obsessed with all things plane related, I was fascinated by the investigation into the crash. A fair bit of time was spent on the ground with the investigators, and is one of the biggest reasons that I enjoyed the novel as much as I did. It makes sense, since author Richard Farrell is a former pilot. One tiny gripe I had was that I wanted more of Lucy’s story. She’s one of Charlie’s fellow investigators and I was intrigued by her from the start.
The overall theme of the story is about how we control our own narrative and life. Erin’s decision to disappear after falling from the plane is something that has heavy impacts on the people around her – her husband, her two daughters, the public who is enthralled with her miraculous story, and the investigators trying to uncover the truth about what happened on the flight. Throughout the story, I found myself thinking about our rights as individuals to determine how we live and what people know, despite what kind of repercussions that could have.
Despite a few minuscule issues with the story, I ended up really enjoying it. The Falling Woman is Richard Farrell’s debut novel, and I will be eager to read anything he comes out with in the future. I’d recommend this novel to anyone wanting a unique mystery to unravel.