A book of related short stories that examine the themes of fate and the consequences of small actions.
The three tales in Carr’s collection all center on the same two characters, and the same event, but they present different beginnings and different outcomes to their tales. In all three, a 13-year-old girl must land a small plane by herself. The first story, “Twenty-Six Minutes,” is a bare-bones account of the affair, set almost entirely within an air traffic control room. Kim, the young girl, finds herself left alone in the cockpit after her father suddenly slumps over mid-flight. Jim Hinton, the air traffic controller who takes charge, tries to calmly walk her through the necessary maneuvers to safely land the plane. Kim manages to escape mostly unharmed, and a short epilogue reveals that in the future, she and Jim “occasionally pass each other in the halls of the FAA facility, but neither knows of the other’s involvement on that day when two souls interacted.” The following two stories, “Broken Cord” and “Umbilical,” use the same dialogue when Kim tries to land the plane, but they flesh out the moments before and after the incident in different ways. Carr reveals Jim’s past pain in “Broken Cord,” which sets up a shocking, sad conclusion. “Umbilical” goes further back to reveal a surprising connection between Jim and Kim; this third and longest story follows the aftermath of the incident in the most detail, and it’s the most fully formed story of the three. However, it does provide a jarring shift in tone, from a tense disaster situation to a quiet, emotional tale of families and recovery. The three stories put forth questions of destiny and coincidence that remain puzzling and ambiguous after the tales are over. However, Carr excels at maintaining tension during the plane-landing scenario, and he manages to combine detailed, technical aspects of flying with suspense, thrills, and believable moments of solidarity between Jim and Kim. That said, readers may wish that there were more versions of the suspenseful scenes.
An unusual, if sometimes unclear, story collection with an intriguing premise.