Readers bring their own expectations and perceptions to a reading experience, and may interpret or connect with a novel in ways an author had never considered. Maybe they see a character trait or motivation that the author didn’t consciously write. Or they find a different meaning in a crucial plot point than the author intended. I’m fascinated when this happens because it reinforces the dynamic and symbiotic relationship between author and reader.
But for me, the best connection occurs when a reader’s experience with a book aligns with my intention for the book: the reader “gets” what I’m trying to do with the characters, themes, and storyline. Not only gets it, but also appreciates it.
I bring this up because a reader just published a review of In Flight on Goodreads (reproduced below in full). I haven’t yet reached as many readers as I want to with this novel and haven’t had many reviews. It’s hard to get noticed out there. But when I read this review, I realized there might be many other readers out there who could connect with this novel as I intended. And if not, at least I’ve connected with this reader, who has recognized “the brilliance of this book.” It’s a good feeling.
LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
Simply put, this book is excellent. In Flight is a thought-provoking page-turner about a normal man who, through no fault of his own, suffers irrevocable change to his life, his relationships with his family, and himself. It grapples with concepts not easily confronted: PTSD, infidelity, hidden stress, regret, missed opportunities, resilience, recovery. Mr. Klein does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters whose motivations and resulting actions are, if not totally logical to the reader, believable in the established universe. I felt fully immersed in the geography and timeline of Robert and Sasha’s suddenly upended life. The only breaks in immersion came from dialogue which at times felt stilted. Still, that dialogue contributes to expertly constructed, relatable characters for whom we can cheer, cringe, and fear.
What most impressed me about the story was Mr. Klein’s portrayal of Robert’s descent into anxiety and paranoia, his reluctant awareness of the inevitability of his madness, and his helpless inability to save himself. Robert is subtly made to be an unreliable narrator from the first few chapters and accentuated from there, pulling the reader through devastating fluxes of hope and uncertainty, much like Robert himself. The result is a reading experience in which we’re not entirely sure whom to side with or what to believe. The uncertainty almost drives the reader mad, creating a somewhat frantic desire for answers at the end. No such answers exist.
The final twist—cruelly striking in the last sentence of the book—is as unpredictable as it is gut-wrenching. However, therein lies the brilliance of this book; reflecting on prior developments reveals a trail of breadcrumbs that foreshadowed doom for Robert’s old life, and it delivers as promised. In Flight is a book that challenges expectations from start to finish and inspires contemplation of what happens when a regular man is wrecked beyond reason.