STARRED REVIEW
September 08, 2015

A spirited debut about starting over

By Melissa DeCarlo
Review by

Life looks bleak for Mattie Wallace. Penniless and three months pregnant, she has just walked out on her deadbeat boyfriend with six trash bags in the trunk of her ’78 Malibu.

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Life looks bleak for Mattie Wallace. Penniless and three months pregnant, she has just walked out on her deadbeat boyfriend with six trash bags in the trunk of her ’78 Malibu. With no friends, no family and now no boyfriend, she heads to the only place she can even barely call home: her ex-stepfather’s doublewide in a Pensacola trailer park. Reluctantly, he takes her in, and just as their father-daughter bond begins to rekindle, Mattie learns that her grandmother has died and the inheritance is hers to claim. She and her trash bags hit the road again, bound for her late mother’s hometown of Gandy, Oklahoma.

Like many mother-daughter relationships, Mattie and Genie’s was a complicated one. With no a biological father in the picture, her mother was the only family Mattie knew. A tight-lipped alcoholic, Gertie never divulged many details about her upbringing, which never bothered Mattie—until now. When she arrives at the unfamiliar home of a grandmother she never met, Mattie finds her mother’s old room has been untouched for nearly 35 years. In fact, Genie’s room looks just like she vanished from it without a trace, which—to Mattie’s surprise—is exactly what happened.

Much to her annoyance, Mattie finds herself unable to cash in on her inheritance as planned. She’s stuck in Gandy and forced to rely on its quirky citizens, most of whom are anything but charming. From a drunken priest to a Goth teenager, Mattie befriends some unexpected characters who help her survive until the money comes in. Soon enough, she learns that these small-town folks are more than just weird—they hold the secrets of her mother’s elusive past.

Grief, laughter, sarcasm, heartache, sadness—Melissa DeCarlo’s debut novel has it all. Starting out with light-hearted humor thanks to the narration of its spunky protagonist, The Art of Crash Landing evolves into a compelling, genuine story about a woman’s search for her identity. Though DeCarlo recounts Mattie’s many failures, regrets and yes, even a few crash landings, our heroine ultimately demonstrates an art that every human hopes to master: the art of letting go.  

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The Art of Crash Landing

The Art of Crash Landing

By Melissa DeCarlo
Harper
ISBN 9780062390547

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