Book Club: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley


“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. Your 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”

It’s all about timing and relationships. Happenstance of those interactions is reality in this unanticipated suspense novel from Noah Hawley. However, the reveal of the plane’s fateful crash is not as big of a surprise as we were expecting. In the world of truly talented suspense writers, that’s exactly where the author wants us :). Reviewing each of the character’s backstories, we discovered that each person had some definition of their lives involving sex and/or love….leaning more into the result of a crime of passion. I feel that intimate relationships aren’t always as we believe them, as was demonstrated by several of the characters (deceased AND alive).

The relationship between Scott and JJ is one that will be forever ingrained in both of them, we feel – especially when Scott gave the last gift from his father before he died to JJ (symbolizing a new father-son relationship). Amidst the other relationships present, the suspense came from knowing that everyone on that plane could’ve led to the crash – each person came with baggage and potential reasoning to go down with the plane. It made us contemplate the role of truth and how that impacts and influences who we are and how we present ourselves to the world. The conscious digs at news media in general is evidence that the truth can be manipulated to serve a purpose bigger than oneself. The stories we tell ourselves, and sometimes the lies, have bigger outcomes than we thought and not just for ourselves.

Another book about death and mental health that we have chosen (honestly, this is strange how many books we’ve discussed around these themes!), had us contemplating what would we do if we knew we were dying. Obviously, we are all going to die at some point but if we knew when, would that change what we chose to do? Or would we continue with the same excuses of not having enough time or money or that we have responsibilities like work/family that we couldn’t drop? I’d like to believe that I help this by having bad moments but never letting them be a bad day – my attitude is in control of that. Each day could be our last but I think attitude has a lot to do with it, as Scott realizes at the end of novel when he walks out of the news interview and decides to take control of his life and do what is right.

We are still contemplating the role of the paintings and the traumas that both the kids experienced at around the same age. In some way, it is similar to Scott’s sister drowning at a young age in the lake when he was a boy – his own personal trauma of a beloved family member. Perhaps the paintings are his means to work through just as JJ will find his own catharsis when he is older. One can make the connection that Doug is what Scott used to be – a drunk, down-on-his-luck guy who was desperate to catch a break – though Scott has surpassed that stage by miles even though there are temptations, given this second chance at life and to be in JJ’s life has changed that around.

A notable quote to leave on: “Life is a series of decisions and reactions. It is the things you do and the things that are done to you. And then it’s over.”

As an aside, this book club night was our last of 2016 so we instituted a book-themed white elephant. Some gifts include and are not limited to:

  • Bookish designed wine bottle with a classy red
  • Handmade bookish quotes on library card catalogs
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • Travel journal
  • Tequila Mockingbird literary drink mix book

It is amazing to see what we have been able to accomplish and the relationships we have built with only coming together to discuss books for less than a year. We have created such strong bonds that we feel comfortable being vulnerable and relating our own personal stories to the themes that emerge from the book that month. Needless to say, I am excited for 2017 and what we are able to accomplish together.


Here’s to our next book club selection, The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe! Happy New Year everyone!!!

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