Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Published in: 2007
Reviewed by: Jen and Book Worm
Find it here: Falling Man
Synopsis (from Amazon): There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years.
Falling Man is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people.
First there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he’d always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes.
These are lives choreographed by loss, grief, and the enormous force of history.
Brave and brilliant, Falling Man traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking.
Book Worm’s Review:
I think this was an easier read for me than it was for Jen, as I am not American and so had a level of distance from the actual events. For me 9/11 was an horrendous news story like the earthquakes in Japan or the 2012 Tsunami. It scared me, it made me sad, but I was removed from it.
What this book offered was a view not of the horrific events themselves, but the perspective of what happens next. DeLillo chooses to do this by concentrating on one family that lives, works, and goes to school in New York City. Through this family, he shows how what happened has an impact for years after the events and probably forever for those affected.
To me this book made the events more real as it bought them down to an individual human level.
This was a difficult book for me to read. My husband and I had just moved from NYC shortly before 9/11. He worked in one of the buildings right next to the World Trade Center. We got married two days before 9/11 and we had friends and family flying out of Boston that morning. There was a span of several hours when we didn’t know whether any of our family or friends were on one of the planes. We were lucky because we didn’t lose anyone close to us although my husband’s company lost several people in the attacks. It was only until recently that I even could think about reading a book about the days surrounding 9/11.
DeLillo does a wonderful job capturing the emotional and psychological impact of the events of 9/11 on the lives of New Yorkers. The novel is told alternating perspectives of a man who was in the towers at the time of the attack, his estranged wife, and one of the terrorists. DeLillo bounces back and forth between perspectives and, at times, it can be hard to figure out who we are following at any given time. He also moves around chronologically with the beginning and end of the book taking place in the towers and the middle taking place in the months afterwards. Although the man returns to his family after the events, they continue to be emotionally distant. Each member of the family copes with events in their own ways that further alienate them from other members of the family. The book is well-written, using repetition and alternating narratives to thrust the reader into the mindset of New Yorkers during that time.
Despite all the positives, I had difficulties connecting with the characters (perhaps that was the point) and some parts of the novel dragged. However, I think it can be a valuable book for those who want to learn more about how trauma can impact ordinary people.
Want to try it for yourself? Find it here: Falling Man
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other works by DeLillo?