Before the Fall, Noah Hawley's gripping tale begins with a plane crash and then winds its way through the lives of the participants, both illustrating how the passengers and crew ended up on the same fateful flight and how the two unlikely survivors waded through the tangled web that awaited them on dry land. The book points toward the premise that the final descent of the private jet, containing two wealthy and powerful men, was not mere accident but perhaps some nefarious deed directed towards a victim and their unlucky fellow travelers.
I walked down to the library to pick it up, and spent the walk back with my head buried in the book, and for the next 24 hours I did little other than read. It captured me, both through the element of suspense and curiosity as well as the raw humanity of the characters. They were all flawed, each with a unique path to the flight. Life has its wonderful ways of re-directing us. Little events alter the course of our lives, and so often we live in the shadows of events, relationships that have long since passed under the bridge. We are so heavily controlled by our past that we often do not realize how much freedom we have to shape the present and steer our future. We find ourselves in ruts, and its so easy to keep our heads down, focused on the next step.
Hawley also didn't shy away from the reality of the power of money. Some of the characters in the novel had more money than they could spend in a lifetime. Several had grown up without assuming such riches would ever be a part of their lives, and now that it was they were sometimes unaware of how it changed them. But money, like gravity, is a force that clumps, drawing in more and more of itself, eventually creating the black hole that we know as wealth.
Isn't this what Scripture warns us about? Money isn't bad on its own. It's our attachment to it that gives it power, our greed for more that gives it control over us. Money is a tool, but when it claims territory of our heart and refuses to let go, it begins to reshape how we see the world, how we see the people around us. It insidiously creeps, altering our relationships and demanding more of our attention. We grant those with money deference, thus elevating money to the role of kingmaker. We believe that those with more money deserve more influence, more attention. We let money define value.
Hawley's novel is a suspenseful page turner, although I will admit to being a bit disappointed at the end. What I found most interesting, however, was the role wealth played in defining and shaping the lives of the characters, granting me an opportunity to reflect on money's prominence in my own life.