Before the Fall

Noah Hawley
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Jan 22, 2018

Everyone has their path. The choices they've made. How any two people end up in the same place at the same time is a mystery. You get on an elevator with a dozen strangers. You ride a bus, wait in line for the bathroom. It happens every day. To try to predict the places we'll go and the people we'll meet would be pointless.

In a world of 24/7 news coverage, where is the line between news and entertainment? In our instant-access world, can we handle the unknown? Do coincidences happen or is everything connected by fate? Does correlation mean causation? Before the Fall by Noah Hawley may ask more questions than it answers. Portraying the aftermath of a disastrous plane crash and the 3-ring media circus surrounding it, Hawley encourages the reader to think about these questions, both in the context of the novel and how they relate to our society. 

David Bateman is the founder and CEO of a Fox News-like news agency. He; his wife Maggie, a former pre-school teacher; 9-year old daughter Rachel; and 4-year old son JJ, are flying back to New York from Martha's Vineyard. Maggie has invited fellow socialite Sarah Kipling and her husband Ben, a Wall Street businessman, to fly back with them. She also invites a 40-something year old painter she has befriended on the island. Scott Burroughs is recently sober and attempting to take control of his life and his career. He's apprehensive about accepting Maggie's offer, but he makes the last-minute decision to board the flight. This decision starts a chain of events none of the people on board could have predicted. 

The sole survivors of the crash are Scott and 4-year-old JJ. What starts as a heroes tale quickly turns more sinister, thanks to Bateman's agency and star-anchor, Bill Cunningham. As Scott desperately tries to keep himself and the boy out of the spotlight, Cunningham becomes more and more determined to find a conspiracy, whether it be a terrorist attack by foreign nationals, a disgruntled employee of Bateman, or an act fabricated by Scott himself to promote his disaster-themed artwork. 

The novel switches between narratives about each person aboard the plane, details of the crash, and life after the crash. Not all of the backstories seem relevant at the time, but do give each character a more human look that makes the tragedy of the crash more tangible. Hawley cleverly places these backstories in between revelations found after the crash to lead readers down various rabbit holes to what might have caused the disaster.  

Before the Fall explores our basic instincts for survival, understanding, and human connection. 


Reviewed by Manda W
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