12 reviews

Before the Fall
by Noah Hawley

Published: 2016-05-31
Hardcover : 400 pages
51 members reading this now
56 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 12 of 12 members
New York Times Bestseller

From the Emmy, PEN, Peabody, Critics' Choice, and Golden Globe Award-winning creator of the TV show Fargo comes the thriller of the year.

On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet ...
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New York Times Bestseller

From the Emmy, PEN, Peabody, Critics' Choice, and Golden Globe Award-winning creator of the TV show Fargo comes the thriller of the year.

On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs--the painter--and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members--including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot--the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of June 2016: Noah Hawley’s new novel begins with the crash of a private plane carrying some very influential people on board. The only survivors are the young son of a media mogul and an obscure painter who, given his less than elevated status, seems like a wild card from the start. What happened on that flight? Why did the plane go down and if it was intentional, who was the target? With each chapter of Before the Fall, Hawley peels back another layer of the lives of those onboard that fatal flight meanwhile, the media speculation and accusations in the days after the crash threaten to overwhelm truth and decency. The end is surprising, even a little bit of a “huh.” moment at first, but it’s an ending that sinks in and starts the wheels turning on everything that came before it, which, to me, is the hallmark of an unforgettable story. --Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review


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Discussion Questions

1. Every person on the plane has experienced sadness or difficulties in the past. Do you think that, universally, everyone has his/her own sad story, or is this a unique trait of this particular set of characters?

2. What different meanings could the title BEFORE THE FALL signify?

3. “True horror, you see, comes not from the savagery of the unexpected, but from the corruption of everyday objects, spaces” (363). Do you agree? Do you see this idea reflected elsewhere in the book?

4. In what ways is this novel a traditional thriller? In what ways does it bend the conventions of the thriller genre?

5. The 24-hour news cycle is ubiquitous in our culture. How is this phenomenon portrayed in BEFORE THE FALL, and how does it make you rethink what we see on television every day?

6. BEFORE THE FALL alternates between the present day --- the investigation into the plane crash and Scott’s experience --- and flashbacks to each passenger’s life. As you read more of the flashbacks, how does your understanding of the past inform or change your understanding of the present day narrative?

7. “He [Scott] too is striving for truth. Or maybe he alone”(356). Much of the book revolves around a quest for the truth. What truths are debated or searched for during the course of this book? Do you believe that truth is objective? Do you agree with Bill Cunningham that “people have a right to know” the truth (388)?

8. Noah Hawley is well-known for his work in film and television. In what scenes do you see this reflected in the book?

9. “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” (1). Much of the plot hinges on chance encounters or small decisions. What are some seemingly unimportant choices characters make that turn out to be pivotal? Do you see this sort of kismet in real life?

10. How is the concept of heroism explored throughout the book? What separates heroes from other people? How does an ordinary person become a hero?

11. After the plane crash, Scott meets many different people --- JJ, Eleanor, Doug, Layla, Gus, Bill --- who want different things from him. How do these characters affect Scott and his personal journey?

12. In many ways, Scott has been a passive observer rather than an active participant in life. In what ways does the crash change how he relates to the world around him and his sense of self?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

The Friendly Skies
by phesselbart (see profile) 02/17/17
We had an airline evening, starting with Blue Skyy Martinis and packages of snacks passed by our attendants. We served a box lunch as the main meal, served with little bottles of wine. It was a hit!

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by PiperUp (see profile) 03/07/17

  "Kept You Reading to the End!"by phesselbart (see profile) 02/17/17

Our book club enjoyed this book and its exploration of wealth, the media, and art. We all liked the structure of the plot, with the crash coming immediately and then the exploration into each of the characters'... (read more)

  "What is a hero?"by Kwizgiver (see profile) 02/11/17

Great discussion stemming from the hero angle. Some of us LOVED it some of us were meh.

  "Addictive Beach Read Thriller/Mystery"by skinnyatlas (see profile) 01/04/17

Beach read with a twist; interesting plot based on a private jet crash with survivors

by lwd503@gmail.com (see profile) 10/25/16

by Djbg1 (see profile) 10/05/16

by Lectora (see profile) 09/20/16

'Death was not an intellectual conceit. It was an existential black hole, an animal riddle, both problem and solution, and the grief it inspired could not be fixed or bypassed like a faulty ... (read more)

by dantheman (see profile) 09/09/16

  "best mystery/thriller in recent years"by ebach (see profile) 08/25/16

All the reviews I have read of BEFORE THE FALL have praised it, some going so far as to say that it’s the best mystery/thriller of 2016. Believe it.

BEFORE THE FALL is the best mystery/

... (read more)

  "A Captive Read"by nbaker (see profile) 08/17/16

Well that was certainly a crash and burn read -- but in a positive way. A private jet takes off carrying a pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant, a multi-millionaire with his wife, two small chi... (read more)

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