A Common Disaster: A novel-in-stories
When flight 83 departs from Baltimore and crashes into the Chesapeake Bay on a snowy January morning an eclectic group of survivors, three passengers and one crew member, are bound together. A COMMON DISASTER weaves stand alone stories from the days and decades both before and after the crash into a larger narrative, in the vein of A Visit From the Good Squad. These stories examine the pattern of belief evoked by accidents and loss, and how individuals build a narrative of meaning around traumatic experiences.
Estelle Quinlin, a former junior national swimming champion turned art student, wants to define herself beyond her mother’s teenage pregnancy and a father no one will name. Her fiance, Henry Bauman, is a scientist whose knowledge of the natural world fails to provide him a taxonomy to properly catalog his grief when Estelle survives the crash but no longer remembers him. Charlie Truslow is the youngest survivor who desperately seeks to build a life that honors those who were lost and makes his survival feel meaningful. When Alex Toselli, a newlywed mother of a colicky baby girl who fantasize about running away from home, loses both her child and her husband George she wrestles with secrets that kept her isolated from those she loved. Denise Glassman is a troubled teen turned flight attendant who makes a mess of connecting with other people, exacerbating her quest to overcome survivor’s guilt.
This kaleidoscope of stories takes the reader from an innocuous chapel full of doppelgängers to a home for pregnant teenagers in the 1980s, from a destructive high-school-love-triangle in the rural turned suburban South to an encounter with a band of paroled young men who find a mystical, talking parrot in a rundown city park, and from a ruined “Miracle Chapel” in Florida where everyone wants forgiveness to a hike in search of elusive morel mushrooms in the ancient Appalachian mountains where glimmers of hope can be found.