Why are a bunch of airplane passengers being rousted by the FBI and the CIA? Their only commonality is that they were on an exceptionally turbulent flight from Paris to New York City. A few chapters into Hervé Le Tellier’s Prix Goncourt-winning novel, The Anomaly, we learn that it’s because their plane did not land where and when it should’ve and so triggered something called Protocol 42. Furthermore, it’s not the only plane of its kind, but the other plane landed in China and the Chinese government isn’t talking.
The passengers of Air France Flight 006 are the types of people you’d expect on a transcontinental flight—or maybe you wouldn’t. There’s the wife of an Afghanistan War veteran and her young children; a brilliant and ambitious lawyer who recently married the great love of her life; a translator who wrote a novel titled The Anomaly; a rapper who dreams of jamming with Elton John; and a man who leads a double life as a reliable father and hired assassin. And of course, there’s the pilot, who finds that the mess he’s in may, ironically, give him a second chance at life.
First published in France, The Anomaly is pleasingly Gallic, with chapters weaving together comedy, melancholy, tragedy and a strand of noir. Lovers and would-be lovers have their hearts broken. The stone-cold assassin seems right out of a Jean-Pierre Melville movie. Only the children on the plane seem to take things in stride, as children often do. A battalion of scientists, government agents, philosophers and clergy members struggle to figure out what happened, but there’s simply no good explanation.
No doubt you’ll find yourself wondering how you would react if you were a passenger on Flight 006. Would you find your situation intolerable? Would you try to live with this new reality to the best of your ability? It is to Le Tellier’s credit that these questions linger long after you turn the last page.