Book Review: The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
By Melissa DeCarlo
Harper Paperbacks, 2015
“Twenty-seven minutes is, if anyone ever asks, exactly how long it takes to cram everything I own into six giant trash bags.”
—opening sentence of The Art of Crash Landing
I defy you to read that opening sentence and not keep reading.
The title of this book gives hints about the story. Before we even begin to read we know that someone’s life is spiraling out of control, and we know that someone is going to share some insights about the experience. We guess that, one way or another, the person survives. A little banged up maybe, but still in one piece.
That person is Mattie, who is 30, pregnant and couch-surfing. Her mother combined just enough love with just enough alcoholic negligence to shape her into a person who is an absolute mess, but with a capacity for daring compassion.
From that first sentence I liked Mattie. I cheered for her when she made good decisions, and I completely understood when she messed up big-time. Her character appeals to the side of us that has made mistakes, but reassures the side of us that says, “Well, I made some mistakes, but at least I didn’t screw things up that badly.”
Mattie’s mother—who died of cancer—had cut off all contact with family, so Mattie is surprised to hear that her maternal grandmother has died and left her an inheritance. The answer to her problems? Perhaps, but not without some adventures and some mystery.
“But now, my hand turning this last doorknob, the feeling is strong enough to take my breath away. Even though I already know what I’m going to find.” —Mattie in The Art of Crash Landing
What’s behind the door? I bet you want to know.
It takes skill to write a heartbreaking story with humour, and DeCarlo strikes the right balance. Some chapters unfold with an inescapable sense of impending doom, but those chapters are balanced by others that unfold with irrepressible hope. DeCarlo creates well-rounded characters who are flawed, but endearingly so. The extra touches she brings to the story—guinea pigs and farting dogs—make it all the more charming.
I received the book from Harper Paperbacks for review purposes.
I was not financially compensated for this post. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.