Noah Hawley's 'Before The Fall' Is a Literary Letdown

Book Review - Jackie K Cooper
BEFORE THE FALL by Noah Hawley

Last year I was mesmerized by the second TV season of "Fargo". This series was created, produced and written by the brilliant Noah Hawley. Having enjoyed Hawley's quirky and intelligent handling of this series, I started his latest novel BEFORE THE FALL with great expectations. It soon became apparent BEFORE THE FALL is no "Fargo". It doesn't exist in the same universe as "Fargo". Where that show highlights the quirky and unusual, BEFORE THE FALL examines the ordinariness of our lives.

BEFORE THE FALL starts off with a private plane being prepared to transport a TV executive, his wife and their two children; a couple who are friends of theirs; an artist the wife has befriended; the crew of the plane, and a private bodyguard employed by the TV executive. They are all flying from Martha's Vineyard to New York. It is a summer night and other than some mild fog, conditions for flying are good. Yet sixteen minutes after takeoff the plane plunges into the sea.

The rest of the book concerns how and why the plane crashed. Various theories are possible and Hawley takes us back into the past to see how and why these suppositions could be right. He holds the reveal of what actually happened to the very end of the book. But until those final moments it is anybody's guess.

By going back and forth to the past Hawley manages to slow the story down to a crawl. He provides details as to the life of the artist/survivor as well as all of the other people who were on the doomed plane. It is more information than most readers need or want. He also provides insight into the foibles of most of the characters which makes them more relatable to the reader, but not necessarily in a good way.

As I waded through the over-burdening back stories of the characters I kept hoping Mr. Hawley would just cut to the chase. The build up to what caused the crash was interesting enough but flipping back and forth through time watered down the effect of that compelling story. It was two steps forward and one step backwards over and over again.

Once again I was let down by my expectations. Hawley created a TV series that was on point and full of excitement and drama. This novel did not have an abundance of those components. It had interesting characters but they were not used effectively. What I had hoped would be uniquely amazing writing turned out to be merely amusing

BEFORE THE FALL is published by Grand Central. It contains 400 pages and sells for $26.00.

Jackie K Cooper