Archive | 10:13 AM

Book Club Reflection: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

21 Jan

We had our biggest group ever for our discussion on Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. We had to be moved to a bigger room to accommodate all of us. I missed taking notes for the first part of our meeting because I was eating an amazing crab cake BLT (yummmmm) so I apologize if I missed anything and I hope any fellow readers from the meeting can add what I may have missed.

We noticed that Gil was the only character whose body wasn’t recovered or found from the crash. If he has ‘gills’ like a fish, did he maybe escape? He had the skill set to do it and be stealthily hidden away! He was very perceptive and seemed to be the only one who was suspicious of the fight between Charlie and Emma. He was a very thorough person. We had a debate if he’d been able to find out about Charlie if he’d known the personnel for the flight. He knew about the co-pilot that was booted. If he’d stopped or even delayed the flight, would he have dug up anything about Charlie? Personally, I doubt it. The FBI had weeks to look into Charlie after the crash and didn’t turn up anything suspicious. What would he have found in five minutes about Charlie?

Scott’s character is very central to the plot. His relationship or lack thereof, with Maggie becomes the first mini-mystery. Why would she invite him on the plane? We felt that Scott could tell that Maggie was more grounded than the people she was surrounded by. He knew that she understood him and his working-class life even though she lived in the big house. Some readers felt that the Jack LaLane plot line was a bit too much. If Scott was inspired by him to swim, then what motivation did he get from his sister’s death? Couldn’t the death of his sister be enough to encourage him to swim and join the team? I’ll give my personal opinion here again. I’m a swimmer. I can see being motivated to fitness by LaLane. I can’t see being motivated to swimming for fitness by the drowning of another. I can see that as an encouragement to learn to swim for survival. Survival swimming would not take you eight miles in open water. That requires a level of fitness that LaLane inspired in Scott. I think both were necessary.

The book itself was both a mystery and a thriller. We felt it was a bit more of a mystery, though. The ending was abrupt and came just after the mystery of who crashed the plane was solved. A lot of plot lines were left unfinished. Was Bill arrested? Did Eleanor and Scott have a romantic relationship? The abrupt ending was much like a tragic accident. It happens without warning and changes things. One reader felt that sudden, drastic life changes were the major recurring theme of this book. Ending the story like one was keeping in line with this theme. The ending also started rearranging events. Many readers (including me) were confused about the timeline of Scott hearing about the black box recordings. At first, I thought Scott remembered what had happened. The more I thought about it, I realized that Gus had told him, that the reader had gotten the story out-of-order.

The criticisms of the conservative news were very thinly veiled. I jokingly called Bill Cunningham Bill O’Reilly and for the rest of the meeting, people would mix them up and refer to the character as O’Reilly. We were all disgusted that Bill would parlay the death of his ‘friend’ into a way to keep himself on the air. He was supposed to be taken off the network but with David’s death, he became a personal touchstone and was able to prolong facing consequences for wiretapping. We were all surprised that Scott would agree to speak to such a man, especially on television. We reasoned that he did it for JJ. Scott felt that he needed to clear the air about himself and Maggie so that JJ wouldn’t grow up with the idea that his mother had ever been unfaithful or that Scott was in some way involved with the crash. He wanted JJ to grow up in a world where people didn’t whisper behind his back.

The sudden, dramatic change of circumstances of the characters developed as the plot went on. On top of the crash, we saw Kipling face pending charges that would make him lose his business, Maggie marrying a billionaire, and Scott’s sister’s death. Scott’s paintings continued this trend, covering sudden, irrevocable changes and loss. It was his way of processing the sudden death of his sister. The last painting in the series said ‘We are sorry for your loss.” This is what we say when we don’t know what to say. It’s what we say when we are not affected and can’t understand the sudden change someone else has gone through.

It was a great discussion this month. I apologize for anything I missed because my food was so delicious. It was worth it.

Until next time, write on.

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