Falling by T.J. Newman
Falling, T.J. Newman, Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, pp. 304, 2021, £14.99 (hardcover)
As a reader, I don’t stray from the books I consider to be home comforts; stories that I am familiar with and have grown up perusing, but something about Falling drew me in. Perhaps it was the fact that author T.J. Newman is a flight attendant, so you can be certain that this jet-based novel will be full of facts ensuring its believability. Or maybe it was when, upon turning to the first page to entertain my curiosity, the opening line, ‘When the shoe dropped into her lap the foot was still in it,’ caught me off-guard and I relished the feeling. Whatever the reason, I now consider myself a thriller enthusiast, and what a sweat-inducing thriller this is.
When I opened the book, my reader status was immediately replaced by passenger on a busy flight to New York, blissfully unaware that my pilot, Bill, is about to choose between the impending death of the travellers relying on him to get them to their destination safely, or the death of his family on the ground. This is all due to Newman’s exceptional use of language to create a story so realistic, I was cursing feebly at the bound paper in my hands. It is abundantly clear that Newman is adept in aviation safety, ensuring the procedures that well-travelled persons know all too well are included for that extra sprinkle of alarming authenticity.
Being a passenger on this journey you are helpless, finding out each cataclysmic consequence to the choices Bill makes at the same time he does, your mind racing to find a solution that you cannot offer. I read this book in a little under two days, afraid that each time I put it down something detrimental would happen that I could have suppressed. Of course, this is impossible, but that goes to show the grasp Newman had me in so tightly that I couldn’t feel my feet on solid ground.
Sweaty palms and dampened brow aside, you are also told detailed backstories of each character, cleverly interwoven into every chapter as if you were having an unfeigned exchange of personal histories, all whilst completely incapable of coming to their desperate aid. Upon closing the book for the last time, you feel as though you are waving goodbye to old friends, unsure if you are ever going to encounter one another again.
From beginning to end, I hung onto Newman’s every description, dialogue, and delineation – never have I felt so personally involved in a story that I ache to know what they are all doing with their lives now. Although a sequel would ruin its powerful independence, the book does hold all the ingredients to go from page to screen if placed in the perfect hands. As a debut novel, it is a masterpiece, a standalone product of chilling actuality. We are living in a world where terrifying ordeals happen all around us, and if there ever was a book to demonstrate how you might feel in one, this is it.
Words by Lucy Morris.
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