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Likely Stories : The Falling Woman, by Richard Farrell


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

The Falling Woman, Richard Farrell’s debut novel, is interesting, exciting, and guaranteed to keep you reading with no brakes!  Richard is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former pilot.  He has a number of works to his credit.  He holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.  He currently lives in San Diego, with his wife and two children.


The story opens with an explosion of a passenger jet at 30,000 feet.  The Prologue is by an unknown person, who disappears.  Farrell begins with one of the main characters.  He writes, “Charlie Radford was working late again and ignored the vibrating phone in his pocket—which he knew was his wife, Wendy, texting him—so he could keep flying the simulator.  He needed to get this report exactly right, even if every additional minute made his wife worry and fret.  Radford flew the simulated plane around again, this time lowering a notch of flaps as he came abeam the end of the simulated runway.  He cut the throttle, and the propellor slowed as he banked the port wing toward a narrow grass field, carved from a stand of Tennessee pine and hemlock” (27). 

When the explosion occurred, Radford was assigned to gather as much information as possible to help understand why the plane blew into thousands of pieces 40 miles across Kansas.  Farrell wrote, “‘All right ladies and gentlemen,’ he said.  Last night a plane exploded and over a hundred people are dead.  This is what we trained for.  This is why we get up in the morning’” (72).  Radford was faced with reassembling the “smoldering wreckage on a Kansas prairie.”

Richard continued, “They worked past nightfall on Saturday, and by breakfast on Sunday, they mapped the major debris fields, established a perimeter, set up a temporary morgue at the old Cheney High School field house.  The critical first forty-eight hours were almost up.  The more debris they gathered, the more bodies they found in those first two days, the higher the likelihood they’d have secured the most vital evidence.  Your never smarter than the evidence, Gray—a mentor of Radford—told him.  The first rule.  But with each hour that passed, the scrutiny and pressure continued to build” (78).  Speculation about the cause ranged from birds clogging an engine, to a terrorist attack.  Then some extremely weird and odd explanations spread like wildfire.

As the pieces of the story seem to come together, it is revealed that someone had survived the crash.  Farrell mentions five people have been known to have survived such a catastrophe.  Richard Farrell has penned a vivid, exciting, and terrible story.  The Falling Woman will keep you holding on to a book you will not soon forget.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.