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The Last Flight


The Last Flight

You can’t take anything for granted when you read Julie Clark’s latest novel, THE LAST FLIGHT. Circumstances change, and assumptions are challenged at every turn --- right up until the very last page.
After surviving a personal tragedy as a young woman, Claire Cook now seems to have it all. Her charismatic, Kennedyesque husband Rory, heir apparent to the Cook family political dynasty, is well on his way to being the next senator from New York. Rory and Claire live in a fabulously appointed townhouse in Manhattan, catered to by a variety of attentive and discreet servants and assistants. But in this case, the servants’ discretion is also a form of complicity; many of them know that Rory physically abuses his wife, and they turn a blind eye to it.

"Readers will come away from THE LAST FLIGHT feeling as if they know Claire and Eva --- and wondering how their lives would be different had they never met."

After planning for months, Claire thinks she’s finally found her escape hatch. She’ll head to a routine public appearance in Detroit --- and then, thanks to a forged identity and a vast quantity of cash --- no one will ever hear of Claire Cook again. But Rory inadvertently sabotages Claire’s plans, and soon she’s at JFK Airport, despondent and convinced she’ll never escape his iron fist.
However, a chance encounter with an equally desperate woman, Eva, at the airport gives Claire an unexpected second chance, one that finds her traveling to Berkeley, California, and a new life under Eva’s name. But when the plane Claire was supposedly on --- and that Eva herself may have boarded --- crashes into the Atlantic Ocean with no survivors, Claire is torn. Suddenly she no longer has to fake her own death --- a plane crash has done that for her. And yet, she’s wracked with guilt over the death of a woman she barely knew but who enabled her to start fresh.
As Claire begins to grasp what it will mean to start over, now without a proper identity or any money, she grows increasingly curious about Eva’s life in Berkeley. Was Eva telling the truth about her circumstances? Why was she being followed? And is Claire --- who has altered her appearance to resemble Eva’s own --- in a new kind of danger?
Clark’s propulsive narrative alternates perspectives and chronologies. Claire’s story starts with the day of the plane crash and moves forward in time, alternating with Eva’s story, which starts a few months earlier and leads up to that fateful day at JFK. Clark skillfully gives readers just enough information to stay a few steps ahead of Claire while still leaving more than a few surprises up her sleeve. She also ties up the novel’s loose ends equally skillfully; even the one seemingly inconceivable coincidence on which a huge portion of the book hinges turns out not to be inconceivable at all. Along the way, Clark brings to bear numerous issues, such as spousal abuse, the #MeToo movement, and class privilege and its consequences.

Readers will come away from THE LAST FLIGHT feeling as if they know Claire and Eva --- and wondering how their lives would be different had they never met.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 25, 2020

The Last Flight
by Julie Clark