book review: The Art of Crash Landing

art of crash landing

The Art of Crash Landing By Melissa DeCarlo.
Harper Paperbacks| September 8, 2015| 416 pages |$15.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-239054-7

Rating: ***/5*

Fantastic cover and title. Promising premise: 30-year-old Mattie Wallace fears that since she’s broke and pregnant she may become just like her alcoholic mother. Her only possessions she keeps in several garbage bags. When her grandmother dies, Mattie travels from Florida to a small town in Oklahoma to retrieve her inheritance. The introduction to Mattie: “I fire up the Malibu, put in a Black Keys CD, and light a cigarette with shaking hands. Three drags later I remember why I quit smoking. Slamming on the brakes, I open the car door and lean out to retch, depositing my half a Slim Jim and an earlier glass of orange juice in the middle of an oily puddle.” Pregnant, malnourished and brazen, she’s quite the scrappy fighter.

Mattie’s perception of small town Gandy: “I wake, sweating, the sun shining straight on my face. I check the time; it’s almost eight. Grabbing the pillowcase that holds my toiletries, I climb out of the car and look around. I’m on what seems to be the outer edge of one of those quaint, redbrick downtowns. The kind where it looks like you’re in a Leave It to Beaver episode until you notice that all the shop windows are covered in paper, and the only thriving businesses are attorneys, bail bondsmen, pawnshops, and payday loans places.”

While there she meets various people who may or may not figure into her mom’s downfall. Apparently Mattie’s mom hastily left the small town under mysterious circumstances. There’s the genuine paraplegic attorney, a librarian named Fritter, her grandmother’s abrasive neighbor JJ and the handsome alcoholic Father Barnes. Mattie begins to unravel details about her mother’s past and reasons for fleeing her small town and attempting to erase her poor decisions through excessive drinking.

Author Melissa DeCarlo moves into the past to explain Mattie’s experiences with her mother. It’s a rocky debut novel about a rocky life. Started slow, picked up and slowed again. Character development creeps along and little tension or suspense exists where it seems needed. Did I particularly care about what would happen? The novel requires more editing as it’s too long at 400 pages. I thought I’d relate to straightening oneself out after poor decisions and misfortunes. I skimmed it at parts but wanted to find out the facts.

Unless you planned some serious career at age 12 most people face challenges in their past. Single moms and divorced parents aren’t that unusual anymore. It’s not all negative. Despite several troubled connections, Mattie maintains an endearing relationship to her former stepfather Queeg. While rough around the edges and uneducated, Mattie’s as savvy as anyone from Florida, land of criminals and slackers, can be. She seems rather earnest in uncovering details about her mom’s life and its connection to her own.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

purchase at Amazon: The Art of Crash Landing: A Novel (P.S.)

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