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Book Nook - 02-11-2016

Wednesday, November 02, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com.

The Man Who Cheated Death
Noah Hawley’s terrific suspense thriller begins with a routine boarding on a plane from the posh haunt of the rich, Martha’s Vineyard—the only thing is that it is a private aircraft, and the owner David Bateman is a self-made media baron. On the plane his wife Maggie, kids Rachel and JJ, his friend Ben Kipling (in deep financial trouble) and his wife Sarah, a bodyguard, and the crew.  The surprise passenger is an artist Scott Burroughs—maybe a friend of Maggie maybe something more.

A few minutes into the flight, the plane crashes, Scott finds himself in the freezing water, along with four-year-old JJ.  Once a champion swimmer, who had turned alcoholic and then cleaned up his act, Scott swims several miles to safety with a busted arm and JJ on his back. It’s a miraculous story of survival and heroism, though Scott does not want media attention. His very reticence ends up making him a suspect. To boost the channel’s ratings, Bill Milligan, a popular anchor on Bateman’s channel, whip up a frenzy of conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s sister Eleanor and her deadbeat husband Doug find themselves thrust into the role of JJ’s wards, with his large inheritance causing a lot of problems. Eleanor is embarrassed by Doug’s open greed at the prospect of such wealth, and refuses to use any of it for herself.  An unambitous woman very different from Maggie, she tries to bring some stability into the life of her nephew, too young to understand death, yet old enough to suffer the consequences of his fate.

Once the nerve-wracking event is over in the first few pages,  Hawley goes back and forth, in time, examining each character, their past, their mindset, their motivations. The secondary characters-- pilot, co-pilot, stewardess and Bateman’s bodyguard, nine-year-old Rachel also get their own backstories and each one is a wonderful red herring.  For instance, the reader would wonder what connection Rachel’s kidnapping in the past has to the plane crash that kills her.

Somewhere in there is a who, why and how, and the layers of suspense are built up brilliantly. Scott gets into trouble, in spite of his superhuman feat, because he had been painting a series of disasters; that and the fact that an impoverished artist had no business being in such luxurious surroundings  to begin with.

The reader has been with him on that arduous swim, and is on his side. But Bill Milligan does everything he can to paint him as a villain who is pulling a con on the public. How could a properly checked aircraft with very little chance of malfunctioning crash just like that? There could be people who wanted Bateman or Kipling dead, so was it an accident or mass murder?  In the midst of all the hysteria, poor JJ, who has gone through a trauma no kid should suffer, finds refuge in silence and in protesting attempts to cut his hair. Before The Fall is a very readable book.
 
Before the Fall
By Noah Hawley
Publisher: Grand Central/Hachette
Pages: 391 pages


Excerpt of Before the Fall
A PRIVATE PLANE sits on a runway in Martha’s Vineyard, forward stairs deployed. It is a nine-seat OSPRY 700SL, built in 2001 in Wichita, Kansas. Whose plane it is is hard to say with real certainty. The ownership of record is a Dutch holding company with a Cayman Island mailing address, but the logo on the fuselage says gullwing air. The pilot, James Melody, is British. Charlie Busch, the first officer, is from Odessa, Texas. The flight attendant, Emma Lightner, was born in Mannheim, Germany, to an American air force lieutenant and his teenage wife. They moved to San Diego when she was nine.

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. You get on an elevator with a dozen strangers. You ride a bus, wait in line for the bathroom. It happens every day. To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.

A soft halogen glow emanates from the louvered forward hatch. Nothing like the harsh fluorescent glare you find in commercial planes. Two weeks from now, in a New York Magazine interview, Scott Burroughs will say that the thing that surprised him most about his first trip on a private jet was not the legroom or the full bar, but how personalized the decor felt, as if, at a certain income level, air travel is just another form of staying home.

It is a balmy night on the Vineyard, eighty-six degrees with light winds out of the southwest. The scheduled time of departure is ten p.m. For the last three hours, a heavy coastal fog has been building over the sound, tendrils of dense white creeping slowly across the floodlit tarmac.

The Bateman family, in their island Range Rover, is the first to arrive: father David, mother Maggie, and their two children, Rachel and JJ. It’s late August and Maggie and the kids have been on the Vineyard for the month, with David flying out from New York on the weekends. It’s hard for him to get away any more than that, though he wishes he could. David is in the entertainment business, which is what people in his line of work call television news these days. A Roman circus of information and opinions.

He is a tall man with an intimidating phone voice. Strangers, upon meeting him, are often struck by the size of his hands. His son, JJ, has fallen asleep in the car, and as the others start toward the plane David leans into the back and gently lifts JJ from the car seat, supporting his weight with one arm. The boy instinctively throws his arms around his father’s neck, his face slack from slumber. The warmth of his breath sends a chill down David’s spine. He can feel the bones of his son’s hips in his palm, the spill of legs against his side. At four, JJ is old enough to know that people die, but still too young to realize that one day he will be one of them. David and Maggie call him their perpetual motion machine, because really it’s just nonstop all day long. At three, JJ’s primary means of communication was to roar like a dinosaur. Now he is the king of the interruption, questioning every word they say with seemingly endless patience until he’s answered or shut down.

David kicks the car door closed with his foot, his son’s weight pulling him off balance. He is holding his phone to his ear with his free hand.

“Tell him if he says a word about any of this,” he says quietly, so as not to wake the boy, “we’ll sue him biblically until he thinks lawyers are falling outta the sky like frogs.”

At fifty-six, David wears a hard layer of fat around his frame like a bulletproof vest. He has a strong chin and a good head of hair. In the 1990s David built a name for himself running political campaigns—governors, senators, and one two-term president—but he retired in 2000 to run a lobbying firm on K Street. Two years later, an aging billionaire approached him with the idea of starting a twenty-four-hour news network. Thirteen years and thirteen billion in corporate revenue later, David has a top-floor office with bomb-resistant glass and access to the corporate jet.

He doesn’t get to see the kids enough. David and Maggie both agree on this, though they fight about it regularly. Which is to say, she raises the issue and he gets defensive, even though, at heart, he feels the same. But then isn’t that what marriage is, two people fighting for land rights to the same six inches?

Now, on the tarmac, a gust of wind blows up. David, still on the phone, glances over at Maggie and smiles, and the smile says I’m glad to be here with you. It says I love you. But it also says, I know I’m in the middle of another work call and I need you to give me a break about it. It says, What matters is that I’m here, and that we’re all together.

It is a smile of apology, but there is also some steel in it.

Maggie smiles back, but hers is more perfunctory, sadder. The truth is, she can no longer control whether she forgives him or not.

Also Received:
Books about how to achieve success are always in demand, and this book by Deep Trivedi concentrates on the power of the mind.

According to the synopsis: “Although human intelligence has evolved with every passing epoch, still the struggle to survive and achieve success continues to be the same. According to the author of ‘I am the Mind’, Mr. Deep Trivedi, a pioneer in spiritual psychodynamics and a renowned author and speaker, every human being is destined to achieve ‘Joy and Success’, but they inevitably fail to achieve the same. Their ignorance or lack of awareness of the functioning of the mind or the psychology behind it, leads them to falter and commit mistakes or blunders at times, which proves detrimental to their lives. So what is the remedy? Only one; ‘Understand your Mind’, says author of the book, ‘I am the Mind’, Mr. Deep Trivedi. Through this book, Deep Trivedi delves deeper into the unexplored territory of the psychology of the mind, and provides you with not just the answers pertaining to all the facets of life – family, business, career, etc. but also the wisdom to lead your day-to-day life. Mr. Deep states that once you become the master of your mind, you will gain acute insight into others’ minds and thus will be able to know the frame of mind they are in and know exactly what thoughts propels them to do what they are doing, or the reason why they are doing, whatever they are doing. Such simple yet profound understanding will give you an edge over others in this competitive world, as this is the vital key to success.”
 
Am The Mind
By Deep Trivedi
Publisher: Aatman Innovations
Pages: 266

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