Freefall (Barry)

Jessica Barry, 2019
368 pp.

A propulsive debut novel with the intensity of Luckiest Girl Alive and Before the Fall, about a young woman determined to survive and a mother determined to find her.

When your life is a lie, the truth can kill you.

When her fiance’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, Allison Carpenter miraculously survives. But the fight for her life is just beginning.

Allison has been living with a terrible secret, a shocking truth that powerful men will kill to keep buried. If they know she’s alive, they will come for her. She must make it home.

In the small community of Owl Creek, Maine, Maggie Carpenter learns that her only child is presumed dead. But authorities have not recovered her body—giving Maggie a shred of hope.

She, too, harbors a shameful secret: she hasn’t communicated with her daughter in two years, since a family tragedy drove Allison away. Maggie doesn’t know anything about her daughter’s life now—not even that she was engaged to wealthy pharmaceutical CEO Ben Gardner, or why she was on a private plane.

As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers. Immersing herself in Allison’s life, she discovers a sleek socialite hiding dark secrets.

What was Allison running from—and can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?

Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a riveting debut novel about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and those they love. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Boston University; M.A., University College London
Currently—lives in London, UK

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for Melissa Pimentel, an American writer and publishing professional. She grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS. Pimentel attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

Today, Pimentel lives in London, England. When not working or writing, she spends her free time running around various muddy parks and reading books in Stoke Newington pubs. She and her husband, Simon, live with two their cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman. (Adapted from both British and American publishers.)

Book Reviews
[An] uneven debut…. Barry’s meditations on mother-daughter relationships and female roles add much-needed dimension to an otherwise shallow plot full of predictable twists and surface-level emotion. Still, this psychological thriller is perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Claire Mackintosh.
Publishers Weekly

Pseudonymous author Barry spins a great tale using familiar tropes but adding a surprising amount of heart to the mystery showing the fierce bond between mother and daughter. —Brooke Bolton, Boonville-Warrick Cty. P.L., IN
Library Journal

[F]ast-paced.… [N]ew twists as motives are brought to light and secrets that Allison struggled to hide are revealed.…[Readers will be kept] guessing to the end, and… will enjoy this thriller written with a focus on family relationships.… [T]his debut will be everywhere.

Although the setup…is clever and her concluding twist surprises, the plot feels underbaked…. Barry makes some keen observations regarding female identity and personal empowerment, but her characters lack verisimilitude, which undercuts the novel's drama.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. In the dire situation after the crash, Allison reminds herself that she "can’t afford to remember." What does this mean? How is this similar or different from Maggie’s realization that she "couldn’t afford to relive every memory"? In what ways is memory a blessing or a burden? What are the most important functions of memory?

2. In the depths of her despair, Maggie considers the possibility that "no one deserves anything." What does she mean? Why is such an idea "enough to make [her] knees give way"?

3. After Charles’ death, Allison refuses to see or talk to her mother for years. Why? Was it best for Maggie to respect this or, as she later believes, should she have "kept pushing" to make contact?

4. Why was it "important" to Allison’s father that she struggle to learn to start a fire with stone sparks instead of matches? What other difficult lessons might be important later in one’s life?

5. Allison was involved with a magazine that intended to show "women celebrating women" in a way that would "interrogate" the publishing and advertising industries. What does this mean? In what ways are such industries harmful to women? How might that be improved?

6. What skills and strengths does Allison call upon and discover as she struggles to survive in the mountains? Do you think you could survive in her circumstances?

7. At one point, purposefully gouging her hand on sharp rock to stay awake, Allison finds that, "the pain shocks through… clearing my mind like a gust of wind." In what other ways might pain be useful or necessary? What determines a person’s pain threshold?

8. At one point, obsessed with exercise and diet to please Ben, Allison feels "faint and flushed with righteousness" and a "power in abstention." How does her obsession and struggles with body image speak to the extreme pressures that women experience in our society?

9. In what ways is Shannon an effective officer? How in particular does she help Maggie?

10. Discussing grief, Tony explains to Maggie that "even when you’re surrounded by people, you’re still completely lonely," and "you’ve got to deal with it whatever way you can." How does Maggie respond to her grief? What are the healthiest responses to loss and regret?

11. Unable to remember the funeral service for Charles, Maggie thinks, "The mind is funny that way." What might she mean?

12. Maggie had always tried to teach Allison "how important it was for a woman to be independent." What, besides financial independence, does this mean for Maggie?

13. Jim suggests to Maggie that her estrangement from Allison is "the way of the world… our children grow up and become strangers to us." In what ways is this true or not? What elements of modern living might cause such separation? What, if anything, can we do about it?

14. Settled back into her mother’s house after all that happened, Allison acknowledges that "it feels like home" and is "etched in [her] bones." What is home? In what ways is it a place or a feeling? How is it important throughout one’s life?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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