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Following my December reads that tended just a little lighter than usual, I was still in the mood for something that felt like fun reading. I mean, I always have fun reading, but thrillers tend to fall into my “reading candy” category. Freefall by Jessica Barry fit the bill with several elements that intrigued me.
Mini-Review of Freefall by Jessica Barry
Elements of Interest
- Survival in the wilderness following a plane crash
- An estranged mother and daughter
- Corporate corruption
- Debut author
I’ve always had a penchant for wilderness survival stories (I was a huge Lost fan), so Freefall captured my attention for this element alone. And much like Lost, this book begins explosively: in the moments after a plane crash in the Rocky Mountains, with a survivor taking stock of herself and her surroundings. And like that mind-bending show, things are not quite as they initially seem.
The similarities between that show and Freefall end there, but the draw of such a beginning is proven: I wanted to know more. What happened? Why was she on the plane? Why did she not seem surprised by the crash, and instead was immediately filled with purpose? Surely such a crash would be disorienting and possibly cause for panic. Why did she seem largely indifferent to the dead pilot (the only other person on the plane)? And why is she running from the plane, instead of waiting for rescue?
The Survival Story
Allison Carpenter, the woman on the plane, does indeed move forward with purpose. A quick assessment and gathering of useful available items and she sets off into the mountains. I enjoyed this part for the survival elements–she has some basic knowledge of wilderness survival, and draws upon memories with her father, which serves the arc of Allison’s family story.
It soon becomes clear that Allison is being pursued, but questions still remain: who is chasing her? And where is Allison going?
The Estranged Mother
Meanwhile, in Maine, Allison’s mother Maggie is notified of her daughter’s accident–and of the likelihood that she has not survived. It has been two years since Maggie and Allison spoke, and Maggie refuses to believe Allison is dead. She begins investigating her daughter’s life in California, following a trail from rundown apartments to a seedy bar to the home and workplace of a pharmaceutical executive to whom Allison was engaged.
The Alternating Perspectives
Through alternating narratives, Allison’s reflections on her past and Maggie’s findings slowly unfold, all while Allison pushes forward. The author does an excellent job of weaving these two perspectives together and building the tension while revealing the circumstances and stakes.
Allison is not a particularly likable character, but Maggie is sympathetic and both women are satisfyingly smart, resourceful, and quick to make connections. A few small parts of Allison’s past didn’t quite come together for me, but that is the only glaring weakness in this otherwise solid thriller.
For Readers Who Liked:
- Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
- Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
- Before the Fall by Noah Hawley