By Ekta R. Garg
July 7, 2021
Release date: July 6, 2021
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
When a pilot’s family is kidnapped, the kidnapper forces him to choose between the family or his passengers. As the pilot does his best to maneuver the situation, he’ll have to rely on a trio of flight attendants and the goodwill of law enforcement on the ground to keep everyone safe. Debut author T.J. Newman relies heavily on her personal experience as a flight attendant for her fantastic first novel Falling.
Bill Hoffman is a veteran of his airline. He was there in the early days when no one knew if the company would survive. Now, more than two decades later, he enjoys a fair amount of seniority…except when it comes to the boss. When Bill gets the call to fill in at the last minute for a flight from L.A. to New York, he doesn’t think twice about saying yes.
His wife, Carrie, isn’t thrilled. Bill promised to spend his days off with the family. His 10-year-old son, Scott, is playing in the Little League season opener. Between managing Scott’s baseball schedule and taking care of their surprise baby, Elise, Carrie’s hands are full. Although she’s grumbling when they say goodbye, Bill knows he’ll find a way to make it up to Carrie when he gets back.
Minutes after Bill leaves home, however, Carrie and the kids are taken hostage inside their own home. The hostage taker calls himself Sam and seems to know where Bill is headed. He waits until Bill is in the cockpit and pushing back from the gate to get in touch with his one demand. Bill will have to make a choice: his family or his passengers. If he doesn’t crash the plane into a location yet to be revealed, his family dies.
Bill’s mind begins to race. He’s bound and determined to land the plane safely, and he knows he can’t let anything happen to Carrie and the children. Despite Sam’s warning against it, at the first available opportunity Bill tells the head of his flight crew, Jo, about what’s going on.
He and Jo have flown together for almost their entire careers. They’re coworkers and friends, and he needs someone he can trust. Sam refuses to tell Bill where to crash the plane, but he does let Bill in on the fact that someone else on the flight is working with him. If the terrorist can have an accomplice, Bill can have one too.
As the flight travels the five hours between the two major cities, Bill, Jo, and a whole host of other people fight to keep everyone on the plane and the ground alive. Bill’s adrenaline is running at a permanent high, but he knows one thing for sure. No one is going to die on his watch today.
Author T.J. Newman worked for 10 years as a flight attendant and wrote Falling while she spent time in the air. Her experience shows in the lingo she uses that all real-life flight crews will surely recognize. Newman keeps a balance, though, between the authenticity of that language and making sure readers know what they’re talking about.
She also builds realistic characters. Bill’s fear and his helplessness ring true as does his resourcefulness. Like other people trained in high-risk jobs, Bill leans into his training to help him figure out the problem.
As the senior-most flight attendant, Jo is ready-made for these types of crises. Readers will hope for attendants like her on their future trips. Like Bill, she’s three-dimensional and relatable.
The made-for-the-movies climax and ending might seem a touch corny, but these types of stories almost require an ending where readers and/or viewers are cheering and teary-eyed by the end. Newman picks her terrorists’ cause with care, making it feel relevant to today’s world. She also doesn’t hesitate to give her terrorists some sympathetic qualities. What they did was wrong, as Carrie asserts at one point, but it’s easy to understand why they did it.
The book fits squarely within its genre and as a movie would be instantly rewatchable. Readers who enjoy a fun thriller with unexpected story twists will definitely enjoy this one. I recommend readers Bookmark Falling.