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Book Review by Robin Widmar


With so many titles on the market today, it can be challenging for readers to find books that will hold their interest from the first word to the last. ìFreefallî by Jessica Barry might fill that role.The opening scene is a well-crafted attention grabber. Allison Carpenter is the lone survivor of a small plane crash in the Colorado mountains. Injured and lacking adequate clothing and supplies, she is focused on survival in the unforgiving Rockies. ìStay aliveî becomes her mantra as she scavenges through the wreckage for anything to help her do just that. Allisonís terse first-person account of her situation creates an immediate sense of urgency. But questions also begin to arise: Who is this woman? How did she manage to survive the crash? And what scares her so much that she would rather flee into the wilderness than await eventual rescue near the crash site?The next chapter belongs to Allisonís mother, Maggie, who is simply going about her day at home in Owlís Creek, Maine. Maggieís leisurely paced narrative provides a sense of pleasant normalcy in contrast with Allisonís frenetic cadence. Then the town police chief, who is a longtime acquaintance, shows up at Maggieís door to tell her about the plane crash. Officials believe no one survived. The story alternates back and forth between Allisonís and Maggieís points of view. Allison struggles to put distance between her and the plane wreckage. She has perseverance on her side, as well as rudimentary outdoor skills learned from her late father. Always in her mind, though, is an unseen threat that drives her. ìI donít know how much time I have before they come looking for me, but I know theyíll come eventually, and that means I have to keep moving,î she says.At first, Allison refuses to allow memories from her former life to intrude on her efforts to survive. But eventually she explains the reasons she was on that plane, parceling out her story a piece at a time. Hers is a tale of early success followed by failure, questionable decisions and second chances. However, her rise from the proverbial ashes comes with a heavy price, and redemption could cost her everything.Meanwhile, Maggie is already dealing with life after the death of her husband, Charles, two years earlier. Now she must also cope with the loss of her daughter. Compounding her grief is the fact that she and Allison havenít spoken since Charlesí passing. Still, Maggie clings to an impossible hope. ìSheís alive,î she says. ìAlly is a tough kid. Iím sure sheís alive.î But when crews reach the crash site, they cannot locate Allisonís remains but declare that no one could have survived. Maggie faces a crushing, harsh reality with sorrow only a mother could know. ìHow was my heart still beating in my chest when it felt so irreparably broken?îAs details emerge in the press about Allisonís ìnewî life as the fiancÈe of a wealthy pharmaceutical company owner, Maggie realizes she knows nothing about the woman her daughter had become. Maggie is a retired librarian who knows how to find information, so she decides to dig deeper. What she uncovers inadvertently puts the same target on her back that Allison wears.ìFreefallî is an engaging suspense story with underlying themes of resilience, human consequences of corporate greed and the unconditional love that binds mother and child. The strong female protagonists should appeal to many readers, and the secrets that each character hides make for a compelling storyline. The writing is artful and efficient, with pacing carefully adjusted to suit the actions. Barry also has a knack for conveying conversations in a natural way that doesnít rely on clunky dialogue tags. The plot twists ñ- especially at the end -ñ might be predictable to some readers, but they will surprise others. Readers should note that rough language is sprinkled throughout the book, but it is appropriate to the characters and situations.I would be remiss if I didnít note a few incongruities. At times, the description of the wilderness feels more like East Coast forests than the Rocky Mountains, and wildlife is noticeably absent from the scenery. There is an unresolved loose end involving a pet. A hunting rifle with a scope is impossibly stowed ìunder the passenger seatî of a small car. Twice.But these are all relatively minor flaws in an otherwise well-written story. ìFreefallî is a compelling read that should keep readers turning the pages late into the night.

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