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The Flight Risk - Macon Leigh

It is said, in various versions of the ancient Eastern proverb, that there is an invisible red thread connecting those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. This thread is unbreakable, no matter how much we stretch it, tangle it, or risk our lives flying away from it.

With ‘The Flight Risk’, Macon Leigh has created a story that is wrapped in threads and it is our pleasure to undo the knots to discover the life of Baylee Lawrence. Even if that pleasure hurts sometimes. Makes us ache in sympathy for her pain. Because in ‘The Flight Risk’, Baylee, in her attempt to outrun her threads, discovers that they always dry out even when soaked in tears and alcohol.

Baylee Lawrence is a travel writer; a very good one, a famous one, a risk-taker in a constant state of restless flight, the perfect travel writer. Waking up in a hotel room with two complete strangers begins one of the strangest, most astonishing weeks in her life. And that’s saying something because, as we discover, Baylee Lawrence has had a heck of a life so far. More life than most of us could handle in two lives.

Macon Leigh, through the voice of Baylee, takes us on a forward and backward journey where nineteen years of life is coalesced into a single week. The drop into the past while sitting in the present is so smooth. The two slide together like those ice-skaters in long distance races when they swap over lanes with each lap of the rink.

We tend to remember people, and events rapidly. It is entirely possible to remember nearly two decades in a few days. Perhaps a few more days because we sometimes sit in the memory for a little while, allowing the nuances to wash over us. Baylee certainly does. For a week, she sits in the memory of Carly, and Noah, and the Rogue Peach, and Naked Man and Rivers and drinking and drinking and drinking and hangovers and remembering and not remembering. And Tovi, and Harper. The threads between Baylee, Tovi and Harper are so strong that they are surely visible to all those around them, even if Baylee refuses to see. In this aspect, we are the audience to Baylee’s nineteen years, but participants in her week.

Through memories that are fragile in their ferocity, important and clear vignettes halt Baylee’s constant movement, despite the fact that she is running. It’s possible to run and not move at all. Suddenly Baylee’s past, the events, the people, her people are her present and we pause in anticipation.

And it is an edge-of-your-seat feeling, because Macon Leigh ensures it. Her writing is forward-leaning choppy. Punchy. We’re calm because there’s a beat but we’re holding our breath; we know something monumental is about to happen. Soon. Now. Punchy. Her writing is staccato where each individual note is played so it’s disconnected from the next and the one before. It stands alone, but needs the others to create a whole. Macon Leigh gives us Baylee’s threads, her beats.

One of the aspects of this book is that it evokes a sense of film. It plays like an indie movie, where past memories and past Baylee exist, like in that filter on your camera roll where you can sharpen the photo to the point where it’s grainy. And sharp. But grainy. That’s how memories can feel sometimes. A kind of grainy sharp. They certainly are for Baylee. So sharp that when they appear in her present in the form of thoughts, or places, or actual people, those memories cut and Baylee bleeds. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book. Grainy sharp.

It is an indie movie with long scenes where the camera pans alongside the action, but pushes in for a close up, then a mid-shot, then a close up, then the long, long shot, because that’s how memories are remembered. There is a scene where Baylee and Harper go for a drive in Baylee’s shit box of a car. Macon Leigh writes a long sentence detailing the procedure for starting the car, then short, sharp sentences, then we breathe, and it’s a movie.

It’s Juno. But…better. Punchier. Staccato.

‘The Flight Risk’ is Baylee’s story about running away, but Macon Leigh asks us to consider the idea that perhaps the flight risk is not the person, but the threads. Maybe Baylee is chasing the threads, but more and more threads keep appearing and she chases and is chased and suddenly she can’t anymore, so she walks beside those threads. Then they curl around her body and she realises that they’ve made the shape of her. She consists of those red threads. And she no longer wants to fly away.


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