So, Landing Gear by Kate Pullinger has a really interesting premise: a man drops out of the sky, onto the roof of a woman’s car in a grocery store parking lot. He doesn’t just drop out of the sky magically, he’s actually falling from the landing gear of a plane, which he was stowed away in to escape his life in Pakistan. Surprisingly, this isn’t even the main storyline in the book, although the ‘falling man’ Yacub does trigger a few extra plot lines.
At the center of the book is Harriet, a middle-aged Mom who finds herself at a crossroads. We’re first introduced to her as she begins to take on more responsibility at work, returning to her ‘pre-baby’ career path. However, secret circumstances which are referenced throughout the book but never fully explained until the end get in the way of this plan, and she finds herself unemployed at the same time this man drops onto the roof of her car. Changes are also happening in the lives of her only son Jack, and her predictable husband Michael. It’s this family life in turmoil that Yacub literally, falls into.
I will admit that I found Yacub’s story the most interesting, and I wish Pullinger focused on it a bit more than she did. He leaves a very physically tumultuous environment for a more subdued, yet emotionally tumultuous situation, and his past is dealt with in snippets. He remains an outsider of not only the other characters, but for the reader as well, and together, we are all desperate to learn more about him. I assume this was a tactic used by the author to help us focus back on the family, so we aren’t distracted by the action-packed aspects of Yacub’s previous life.
Pullinger also deals with the ‘falling’ scene quite brilliantly, re-visiting it a few times, from different angles. She staggers the sentences and perspectives on the page, as they relate to the different characters, creating literal steps of text that the reader must follow to complete the scene. It’s quite fun to read, and gave me the sense of ‘falling’ down the page. This technique is something I haven’t seen much of in my reading, and I assume it comes from Pullinger’s expertise in digital fiction.
I should mention that a little bit of suspension of disbelief is required in this book, , as many people come very close to dying, but miraculously don’t. In comparison, some deaths seem to come about very quickly, with every little warning or reason, but this is the world that Pullinger asks us to inhabit for the duration of the novel, and I was more than happy to oblige.