It is the early 1980s, and America is in love with space. Growing up in the shadow of Cape Canaveral, young Dolores Gray has it particularly bad: she dreams of becoming an astronaut.
At school, Dolores finds herself caught between her desire for popularity and her secret friendship with the smartest and most unpopular boy in her class, whose father is NASA's Director of Launch Safety. At home, discord begins to grow between her parents when her father's job as a NASA technician is threatened.
Looking for escape, Dolores loses herself in her scrapbook, where she files away newspaper articles about the astronauts and the shuttles, weather reports on launch scrubs, and stories about her idol, Judith Resnik.
Then, on the morning of January 28, 1986, seventy-three seconds after liftoff, the space shuttle Challenger explodes, killing all seven astronauts on board -- including Judith Resnik. It is a moment that shakes America to its core, and nowhere is it more deeply felt than in central Florida. Dolores becomes determined to reconstruct what went wrong, both in her parent's marriage and at NASA, in the hope that she can save her father's job and keep her family together.
The Time It Takes to Fall is a coming-of-age novel that deftly weaves the story of one family's drama into the larger picture of a touchstone event in American history. It is at once an intimate look at a young girl's loss of innocence and a portrait of America's loss of innocence -- the end of an era that romanticized manned space flight and would never be the same again.
The 1986 Challenger explosion is juxtaposed with a disintegrating "Space Coast" Florida family in Dean's tepid debut. Dolores Gray dreams of becoming an astronaut like her idol, Judith Resnik and lives in what is essentially as NASA company town: at school, everyone's father works for space agency, and the bureaucratic hierarchy extends from the Cape Canaveral launch pad to the school playground. Funding for space exploration is precarious, however, and when Dolores's father, who is a technician, is laid off, Dolores's parents' marriage goes into a tailspin; Dolores's mother leaves, and the going-on-13 Dolores has to face adolescence on her own including romances with two boys whose fathers are placed higher in NASA's administration than hers. Dolores's father has a hard time recovering once his wife is gone, and the Challenger disaster only exacerbates his trouble. The setting and Dean's ability to make rocket science understandable add some appeal to what is essentially a stock-in-trade coming-of-age.
500+ pages but a fascinating, fast paced read that made it feel less like work & more like a trip down memory lane. I could not put it down. A good account of growing up. Realistic read. Kudos to the author.