The Last Flight
For a thrill ride, welcome aboard The Last Flight
A review by Valerie Taylor (originally posted on BookTrib)
Spoiler alert! The Last Flight (Sourcebooks Landmark) by Julie Clark is about a scary plane crash. Well, not really a spoiler, as the book’s cover and title imply at least that much. But a plane crash isn’t half of what will keep you up at night turning the pages of this remarkably crafted thriller.
In unusual fashion, The Last Flight features not just one, but two protagonists—Claire and Eva—who are determined to correct some really bad choices they’ve made in their lives. Yet, these two strangers will quickly learn that choices have consequences.
Cloaked under the Me Too movement theme, Clark takes us first inside the head of Claire, revealing why she fears her husband’s manipulation, abuse, and power. A power so strong, she knows he’ll stop at nothing to track her down. If that’s not frightening enough, we then learn how Eva stumbled into being a key player in the underbelly of the drug world, which she now regrets and will stop at nothing to extricate herself from its horrors.
Frantic and panicking, these thirtysomething women assume there’s only one escape route: change their identities and get the hell out of Dodge. Running toward each other from opposite coasts—Claire from the east, Eva from the west—they meet by chance at JFK airport in New York and inside a stall in the women’s restroom, they hastily cook up a plan to swap identities. As they depart and head toward their respective gates, little do they know the path each has chosen is about to crash and burn.
Adding to this already tense and terrifying journey, Clark utilizes a parallel plot technique so effective that the identities of Claire and Eva become so intertwined, at times it’s hard to distinguish between them. (See how she achieved this in the interview below.)
Moreover, in The Last Flight, Clark has built a world where women rise, refusing to be victims of their own misguided decisions. A world where the influence of families is minimal, yet the support and trust of friends is paramount to survival.
Whether or not this is Claire and Eva’s last flight will haunt you long after you turn off the overhead light.
Interview with Julie Clark, The Last Flight
Q. A theme of the story is the Me Too movement. In fact, you introduce it in your dedication. Though #MeToo started in 2017, it can be traced back at least to a decade before that. What came first: the movement or your idea for this novel?
A. Absolutely the movement came first. I began drafting this story in the fall of 2017, and all around me, women were coming forward with their stories. Suddenly, attention was being given to how women have always had to navigate the world—with plenty of attention on risk assessment versus payoff: If I park here, I’m closer to the store, but next to a van with no windows. If I take the shortcut through the alley, I’ll be home faster, but no one will hear me if I call for help. These are questions all women ask themselves every day. I wanted my two main characters, Claire and Eva, to be at the beginning of their own #MeToo moment. Fed up and ready to speak out and strike back.
Q. You’ve created two protagonists, two antagonists, and two timelines, switching back and forth between points of view as well as the present and the past. What was the most challenging aspect of this undertaking?
A. By far the most challenging aspect was keeping both story arcs in sync. I had all the plot points on color-coded notecards—green for Claire, yellow for Eva. Trying to fit their two storylines in place so that they rose and fell together was crazy-making. Tackling a dual POV story is challenging. Tackling a dual timeline story is challenging. I ended up tackling them both.
Q. Some say there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Yet, without revealing anything, The Last Flight hinges on one heck of a coincidence. Do you believe no coincidence, no story?
A. Social media has taught us how interconnected our lives are. How many times have you seen a person from one part of your life on the Friends list of someone from another part of your life? A colleague who went to camp with someone you’ve known since kindergarten? A neighbor who dated your cousin’s college boyfriend? One of my closest friends from college bought a house on the same street as one of my closest friends from high school. They had both moved to a town where they knew no one. They became best friends and then discovered they both knew me. Coincidence? Sure. But it happens all the time.
I’m also a big believer in the idea that the universe will always put the right person in your path at the right time. Every life contains both fortunate and unfortunate coincidences. In fiction, those coincidences are what drives a plot to develop in an author’s imagination. The hard part is making them work on the page.
Q. I’m always intrigued by titles. In my mind, The Last Flight could have a double meaning. Was that your intention?
A. It absolutely was. My agent and I went back and forth for a few months, trying to find a title that would fit both literally and metaphorically. I’m pretty happy with what we came up with.
Q. Is there a sequel in the works?
A. Not for this book, no. Although sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, tempted to write the opposite ending. Even if just for myself.
The Last Flight is available now through your favorite independent bookstore or online bookseller.