THE ART OF CRASH LANDING

Melissa DeCarlo

Broke and knocked up, Mattie Wallace has got all

her worldly possessions crammed into six giant

trash bags and nowhere to go. Try as she might,

she really is turning into her late mother, a broken

alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t

make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left

by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn

things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred

miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy,

more …

Broke and knocked up, Mattie Wallace has got all

her worldly possessions crammed into six giant

trash bags and nowhere to go. Try as she might,

she really is turning into her late mother, a broken

alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t

make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left

by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn

things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred

miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma.

There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy,

talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago

with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears

little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long

it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother. The

deeper Mattie digs for answers, the more precarious her situation becomes.

Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s

downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

less …
  • Harper Paperbacks
  • Paperback
  • September 2015
  • 432 Pages
  • 9780062390547

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$15.99

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About Melissa DeCarlo

Melissa DeCarlo was born and raised in Oklahoma

City, and has worked as an artist, graphic designer, grant writer, and

even (back when computers were the size of refrigerators) a computer

programmer. The Art of Crash Landing is her first novel. Melissa now lives

in East Texas with her husband and a motley crew of rescue animals.

Praise

“DeCarlo’s debut is confident and accomplished, filled with heart and

humor.”—Kirkus

“Full of heart and sass. . . . This is a sparkling, funny, and moving debut.”—Edan Lepucki, author of California

“A dazzling debut that truly soars, about figuring out the tug of the past,

about family mysteries and the marvels of forgiveness, and all of it features

a spunky heroine readers won’t be able to stop falling in love with.”—Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

Discussion Questions

Early on in the book it becomes clear that Mattie has a

long history of making bad decisions. Do any of the other

characters make self-destructive choices in their lives?

How have those choices shaped present circumstances?

Even though Queeg was only Mattie’s stepfather for

three years, it’s obvious they’re still close. Why do you think Mattie

maintained a close relationship with Queeg? Are there relationships

from your past that you’re surprised you’ve maintained? Some you’re

surprised you’ve let go?

Part of the reason Mattie finds Tawny annoying is how much the

girl reminds Mattie of herself as a teenager. If you could meet your

teenaged self, what advice would you give?

Even thirty-five years later, Karleen still harbors strong feelings about

Genie. Why do you think the dynamic between them changes when

Genie goes off to college? How does that reflect the evolution of

friendships over time?

As she investigates her mother’s history, Mattie’s own past and her

relationship with her mother are revealed one piece at a time. As you

progressed through the book, how did your feelings toward Mattie

change? What about your feelings toward her mother?

The two settings in the book are the Florida panhandle with its beaches

and seagulls, and a small town in Oklahoma with its wind and storms.

Do you think the settings were important to the story? Why or why not?

What was the emotional significance of the old Malibu to Genie and

to Mattie? Do you have anything you’ve held onto longer than you

should because of the memories tied to it? What would it take for you

to let it go?

The ability or inability to let go of guilt and move on with life is a

recurring theme in this novel. What are some of the characters whose

stories reflect this theme, and how did they deal with (or not deal

with) their guilt? How common is it for people to harbor guilt that

holds them back?

If you could check back in with Mattie a year after the book’s ending,

what do you think you’d find? What do you wish you’d find? Are the

answers to those two questions the same or different?