By Darryl Keeping
In her debut novel, T.J. Newman takes the reader on a wild ride through the not-so-friendly skies with all the white knuckle suspense and pulse pounding action you could ever want in a summer read.
Newman’s own story reads like something out of a novel. She had aspirations to be an actor, graduating from a musical theater program and moving to New York City to pursue acting. After two years of “failure after failure after failure” as Newman herself put it, she moved back home to Arizona. She returned to her first love: books. She had always wanted to be a writer and spent some time working in a bookstore. Then, in 2011, she took on a job as a flight attendant with Virgin Airlines. The flexible schedule allowed her to work on a novel. A novel about an airline pilot who had to make an impossible decision: crash your plane and kill everyone onboard or allow your wife and two children to be murdered. Newman ran the novel idea by a pilot she worked with and the blood draining from his face was all the confirmation she needed that she had a great idea.
The resulting novel, “Falling”, was written over ten years as Newman worked with Virgin Airlines. In it, Captain Bill Hoffman is called in unexpectedly to take over a flight. Bill is a great husband to wife Carrie and a great father to children Scott and Elise but he’s also a great employee, sometimes to the chagrin of Carrie. By taking this flight, Bill is going to miss Scott’s Little League game. Turns out, he could miss a lot more than that.
Hoffman takes to the skies with his crew and is soon informed that his family is being held hostage and that he must crash his plane in order to ensure his family lives. Now Hoffman and his crew, including his co-pilot and flight attendants, must work to save everyone.
Newman’s knowledge of all things commercial flight generally and the work of flight attendants specifically is made clear in the writing. Neman takes us behind the scenes of how being a flight attendant actually works (the serving of peanuts and booze is the very least of it) and explains it in such a way that it’s understandable and adds to the excitement of the moments in the novel.
As for the excitement, it is relentless in the best ways possible. Newman keeps the reader guessing as to what will happen next and there are a few surprises thrown in along the way. Not surprisingly, the flight attendants in the novel are the characters who feel the most “real” and you will find yourself rooting for them that little bit extra. Newman also gives the terrorist in the novel a tragic backstory that you can’t help but feel for, even if the actions the terrorist takes are unconscionable.
If you’re looking for something to read on the beach this summer as life gets back to a degree of normal, look no further than “Falling”. You’ll get all the action, suspense, and thrills you’ll need. And you won’t look at flying the same ever again.