Freefall – Jessica Barry’s Debut Is a Page-Turner

Allison Carpenter has not spoken to her mother, Maggie, for more than two years. When Chief of Police Jim Quinn, shows up at Maggie’s door to tell her that Allison has died in a plane crash, Maggie can’t accept that outcome. But investigating Allison’s activities since she left her home in small town Owl’s Creek, Maine, Maggie realizes she no longer recognizes her daughter. Most of the photos on social media show that the dark-haired Maggie is now a blond, so thin she looks starved. And she’s engaged to Ben Gardner, CEO of Prexilane, a pharmaceutical company. 

Maggie knew that Allison was a fighter, and she was right. While Allison struggles to stay alive, Maggie vows to discover what happened to her daughter. What was Allison doing for the last two years in California? How did she meet and become engaged to a wealthy man? And how did she end up on a private plane that took off from Chicago’s Midway Airport and never made it to San Diego, crashing in the Colorado Rockies?

Allison knows that there are people determined to kill her, so she has to keep moving. Injured in the crash, with very little food and water to keep her alive, she remembers some of the survival skills she learned from her father – using iodine to make creek water drinkable and building a fire, for example. Meanwhile, Maggie, tired of being inundated with casseroles from the Owl’s Creek women, and upset that no one will consider the possibility that Allison is still alive, decides to fly to San Diego to find some answers. Her trip produces more questions and few answers. But she returns to Maine convinced that Allison is still out there.

Alternating between Allison and Maggie, past events are dropped in, filling in the background without lessening the tension. Allison knows she can’t trust anyone, even two park police who show up at a deserted cabin where she manages to stay for a few days. On the other hand, Maggie, desperate for someone to confide in, opens up to Tony, a widower she meets at the Bowdoin College library. Is he truly trying to help or someone she should fear? Maggie also is thrown a curve ball when Ben’s parents turn up in Owl’s Creek, pumping her for information, but not giving much up. The pair don’t even seem to be in the throes of grief, something that makes Maggie suspicious.

Jessica Barry’s debut novel is not only a thriller but the story of a mother-daughter relationship that fell apart, as so many do, after one misstep. With feelings so raw, neither one reached out until it was almost too late. But bonds formed over so many years ultimately prove unbreakable and the two women come together to save each other in the final moments.

Jessica Barry 

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (313 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines including the New York Times. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her new book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "1Life After You," focusing on the opioid crisis that will be filmed in 2019. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.