Chapter summary


Chapter 1

In the first chapter of Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, we meet Keith (although his name is not yet known to the reader) who survives the 9/11 attacks and manages to get out of the first tower alive. He walks through the ashes in his suit carrying a briefcase while covered in fragments of glass and blood. He notices people around him covering their faces with handkerchiefs or taking shelter under cars, cops and security guards running by. He observes everything around him, sees things falling down from the sky, watches people in chock, but he feels completely numb inside. A woman hands him a bottle of water, and after taking a sip, he keeps on walking. The second towers falls behind him, and he keeps walking until an electrician stops in his car and offers him a ride. Suddenly, Keith realizes where he is headed.

Chapter 2

In Chapter 2, Lianne is going through her mail three days after the attacks while thinking back on the time when she and Keith first met eight years earlier. She recalls that there was an intense sexual atmosphere between them at first. No matter what they did together, there was always sex in the air. She receives a postcard from a friend staying in Rome with a picture of Shelley’s poem “The Revolt of Islam”. Although the card was sent weeks before 9/11, the text seems strikingly fitting.

Lianne visits her mother, Nina Bartos, who lives in an apartment near Fifth Avenue and is a retired university professor. Through their conversation, we learn that Keith turned up at his ex-wife Lianne’s door after he got out of the tower alive. Nina was looking after Justin, Lianne and Keith’s son, at the time. Nina and Lianne talk about the situation. It is clear that Nina is skeptical towards Keith and she is afraid that her daughter will get involved with him again now that he is staying in the house. Nina feels it was a mistake that Lianne married Keith in the first place and that the only good thing that has come from the marriage is her grandson Justin. They talk about what Lianne was like as a child, and her mother says that she was always curious about the wrong things and went looking for danger.

Their conversation is interrupted when someone rings the entry phone. Lianne suspects that it is her mother’s lover Martin. 

Chapter 3

In chapter 3 of Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, Keith is in the hospital having fragments of glass removed from his face. The doctors check that everything is alright with him. While one of them is removing the glass from Keith’s skin, he tells him that survivors of suicide attacks sometimes find pieces of the suicide bombers flesh inside them months later.

Lianne is talking to Isabel, the mother of two siblings who play with Lianne’s son Justin. Isabel says that she is worried about what the kids are up to. Since the attacks, they have started talking about a man and the adults can’t figure out who this man is.

Lianne thinks about what is like to have Keith back in the house. The two of them sleep in the same bed and there is still some sexual tension between them.

Still in the hospital, Keith is having his hand examined. As he lies in the scanner, he thinks back on women he has known. One is Nancy Dinnerstein, whom he knows from Boston. The other woman is also a Nancy, who he has had affair with in Portland, Oregon, but whose last name he doesn’t even know.

Lianne is at home looking at a picture of one of the bombers in the paper. Carol Shoup, who occasionally has editing work for Lianne to do, calls her up to hear if she has received her postcard from Rome.

Next, Lianne and Keith are in the bedroom talking. Lianne asks Keith a lot of questions about why he came to her house after the attacks. Lianne practically feeds Keith all the answers she wants to hear and then feels comforted by the answers.  Keith tells her about the electrician who picked him up and drove him to the house.

In the hospital, Keith is given anesthetics before a small surgery and he envisions his friend Rumsey sitting in the room, although he died in the towers. Keith is struggling to suppress the memories of what happened in the towers.

Lianne is out running errands, while she thinks about several things at once: a book she is currently editing, a man she used to see during the separation from Keith, and Keith in the shower that morning.

Keith manages to get through the check points near the towers, because he tells the security guards that he has kids and cats to look after in his apartment. He looks at the ruins and thinks about his past ten years working in one of those towers. A man stands next to him and starts talking about how unbelievable it is to be standing right there in the middle of it all. Keith finally reaches his apartment where he packs a suitcase with a few things. The place has lost its meaning to him. He walks back out towards the northern barricades.

Chapter 4

In chapter 4 of Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, the time after Keith’s and Lianne’s separation is described. Keith starts playing poker, while Lianne is in charge of a storyline session with Alzheimer patients. Here the members write about a topic and then read aloud to each other. Although Keith no longer attends the poker games, Lianne still goes to the meetings. After 9/11 everyone in the group, except one guy called Omar H., wants to write about what happened on that day.

Keith is sitting alone going through his mail and correcting the misspelling of his last name, which we find out is Neudecker

Lianne is walking around New York noticing that everything is different. People talk about different things on the phone, the tourists are gone, and a crowd of people are watching a performance artist called Falling Man dangling above the street. People are upset, because he keeps reminding them of the tragedy that happened just ten days earlier. Lianne picks up her mother at the train station. They talk about whether the right thing to do would be to escape the city with all its sadness and fear or to stay there.

We hear that Lianne and Keith, who are 38 and and 39 respectively, share a bedroom, although they do not have sex. They both want to be near each other.

Keith realizes that he has accidentally carried a stranger’s briefcase out of the tower. He finds a cell phone, a wallet and other personal belongings in the suitcase. While he examines the content of the suitcase, he feels emotionally detached from the situation.

Lianne meets Isabel in the bakery. She goes on talking about what their children are up to. She tells Lianne that they are using binoculars and talking about a man called Bill Lawton. They wonder if it all has something to do with a school project.

Keith lies awake at night listening to Muslim prayer coming from a lower floor in the building.

Lianne watches her son,...

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