Even though it’s only May, I’m confident that ‘The Flight’ will be on my 2022 Best Reads list. It was an exceptionally good thriller, providing a wonderful mix of tension, reflection, fear, friendship, hope and difficult choices.
The characters and circumstances of two very relatable but quite different women power the plot. The story, which unfolds from two first-person perspectives in two different timelines, unfolded in a way that maximised the impact without cheating or overtly misleading so that the ending has some surprises in it but surprises that made me ‘Of course that’s what happened’ rather ‘Nah, I’m not buying it.’ The story goes beyond the typical ‘competent, likeable woman under threat’ genre norms. It provides a credible insight into the mechanics of abuse that is all the more upsetting because of its mundanity. It reminded me that we live in a society that chooses to tolerate the abuse of women, making excuses for and sometimes lionising the men who commit it.
For me, what made this an exceptional thriller was that it was thrilling because I cared about both women; because both women faced terrible choices that seemed to offer no way out; because fear often outweighed hope but never extinguished it. Because the abuse and the exploitation felt horribly real but both women were strong enough to rise above victimhood; and because, as the story unfolded in the two timelines and I became more invested in each of the women, I was hungry to learn how they would come together and more and more hopeful that they would both triumph, even though I couldn’t see how.
The men in the story, even the ones who bear the women no ill will, are all essentially predatory. Their needs come first. Always. It saddened me to see that, while one character fits the entitled narcissistic sociopath profile perfectly, the other men, although much more ordinary, cause almost the same amount of damage.
I liked that this wasn’t a simple ‘heroic woman takes a stand and wins against all odds’ kind of story. Both women were brave and strong but they were not heroic. They were surviving, not triumphing. They also didn’t stand alone. Much of the hope in the story comes from the way that some of the women that the two main characters meet during their struggle to survive, offer them friendship, shelter and practical help.
Then I reached the ending. What an ending! The kind of ending that makes you go ‘Of course. But why didn’t I see that coming? Why didn’t I let myself see that coming‘ and still has you reaching for the tissues or, in my case, pretending in a manly way that I had something in my eye.
Julie Clark is now on my ‘Read Whatever She Writes’ list, so I’ve pre-ordered her next novel ‘The Lies I Tell’ which is due out in June 2022.
I listened to the audiobook of ‘The Flight’ narrated by Patricia Rodriguez and really enjoyed it. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample. There is also an audiobook under the alternative title for the novel, ‘The Last Flight’ which has two very good narrators, Khristine Hvam and Lauren Fortgang, one for each main character, which I’d love to listen to but which isn’t available in the UK.
Julie Clark is the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight. It has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and the New York Times has called it “thoroughly absorbing”. It’s been named an Indie Next Pick, a Library Reads Pick, and a Best Book of 2020 by Amazon Editors and Apple Books.
Her debut, The Ones We Choose, was published in 2018 and has been optioned for television by Lionsgate.
Her third book The Lies I Tell will be published in June 2022.
She lives in Los Angeles with her two sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control.
Photograph by Eric A. Reid Photography