Julie Clark Begins the Great Switch
I know I can’t speak for everyone when I say this, but I think the majority of us have lives we don’t really want to run away from, despite the difficulties they might be putting us face-to-face with. There are, however, many people who, for one reason or another, would more than gladly leave their current lives behind if they could… and such an opportunity presents itself in The Last Flight by Julie Clark.
On one hand, we are introduced to Claire Cook, married to a rich and overtly beloved husband, with her future being seemingly limitless and her days pre-planned with all the grace and detail of a space voyage. However, behind closed doors matters are a little different from how they appear to the rest of the world, and her seemingly perfect husband is far from being so.
Domineering and controlling beyond all reason and common sense, he even uses the house staff as spies to keep track of her movements, ensuring she is fulfilling her important role as his wife and living up to the insanely high standards he has set for her. Needless to say, Claire isn’t entirely happy with this arrangement; for a few months, she’s been working on a plan to vanish.
The perfect opportunity presents itself when Claire meets Eva at an airport, also running from her own dangerous life littered with terrible choices. The two women decide to exchange plane tickets and identifications and get a head start in running away from whoever might be pursuing them.
At this point, a strange twist of fate strikes. The plane Claire was meant to originally board crashes on the way to Puerto Rico. In a few days, she will be assumed dead and gone from the world. Instead of being a head start, this turns into the opportunity to start a new life, one under Eva’s identity. However, the second woman is the type to always have schemes of her own, and she might have never boarded the plane in the first place.
Two Women on the Run in The Last Flight
While the plot of the book would have you believe Eva is out of the picture at first, the story is actually told in alternating chapters, switching back and forth between the two women and their attempts at escaping their own personal infernos… that is, after it starts to get going following a slow start.
While there are, of course, links between the two narratives, with each woman using the other one’s identity, their stories largely feel like their own separate identities. Whenever a book presents a dual or multiple narratives, there is almost always the inevitable pitfall of caring about one story more than the other one, and personally-speaking, this was partially the case in this book.
At first, I found myself caring more about Claire and her escape from her abusive husband, and I think it’s largely because her actions are morally-justifiable, relatable and understandable. I had an easy time perceiving her motivations, and despite the few missteps she takes here and there I found her to be an enjoyable protagonist to follow.
On the other hand, we have Eva, and for me her story only got more interesting and palatable around the halfway point of the book. She’s almost Claire’s opposite, being a reprehensible career criminal with a long streak of manipulation which often resulted in violence, and on the run from a retribution which she very much deserves.
Julie Clark did her best to make us sympathetic to Eva’s plight, but I feel like it would have been better to drop the pretense she might be a good person on the inside after all, pushed into the wrong path entirely by a difficult childhood. I found it a very hard idea to buy, and what’s more, unnecessary due to the more exciting nature of her narrative being enough to retain my attention.
Metamorphosis in Humans
Now we’ve established the story is about two women running from their own pasts, what more is there to the plot?
What’s the driving force behind their mutual escapade?
In my opinion, the main point of The Last Flight is having the two women face the impulsive and generally-terrible decisions they’ve been making and arrive at a point of self-realization.
I found Clark did a rather good job at tracing the character arcs for both of them, consistently showing how and why they are changing in function of what they’re experiencing and realizing. I believe subtle changes in human psychology are a difficult thing to portray in general, and in my opinion, Clark succeeded rather splendidly in this regard.
What’s more, the changes the two women experience always feel like logical consequences of the events they go through and seem to happen quite naturally. By the end of the novel, despite my few small gripes with Eva’s overall character, I found both women felt very realistic and relatable on a basic human being level.
I was also quite impressed by the fact Clark managed to maintain a very quick and thriller-like pace for this novel, seldom allowing the advancement of the plot to lose its priority in favour of characterization and descriptions.
One thing I do want to address, is there are a few plot holes in The Last Flight (and by “a few” I do literally mean just a few, they aren’t numerous), and they will take a bit of suspension of disbelief to ignore.
Nevertheless, I personally found them easy to overlook because in the end, this story is more about the who’s and what’s, and less about the how’s, even though the author does try to integrate those as well.
The Final Verdict
The Last Flight by Julie Clark is an excellent psychological thriller with a strong focus on both character development and exciting plot movement. It does have a few minor faults, and I believe any fans of the genre ought to overlook them and give this novel the chance it deserves.
Julie Clark is an American author from California who took up teaching in Santa Monica after having attending at the University of the Pacific. She began her career as an author in 2018, publishing her first novel titled The Ones We Choose.
Two years later she came out with her second novel, The Last Flight, which became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.