This is a really well written book based on an interesting historical event. The book starts in 2010 during a period when European air travel is grounded due to ash being spewed from an Icelandic volcano. Harriet lives in a London suburb near Heathrow - she is a radio newsreader who uses the opportunity to go back to her reporting routes and interview people stranded at Heathrow and those in nearby neighbourhoods who find the quiet eerie, being used to living under a heavily travelled flight path. Harriet's husband, Michael, is in New York and unable to return home. He is also unable to find a decent hotel room in New York so decides to take the train to Toronto to visit his first love. Their son, Jack, left to his own devices finds himself getting in trouble with his friends by attending a wild party where the host dies under mysterious circumstances.
At the same time we also meet Yacub, a Pakistani migrant worker in Dubai who misses a transport home and is stuck without work or money in a labour camp, and Emily, a TV researcher in England who buries her father on the quiet day when no planes are flying overhead. Her adoptive father's death prompts her to restart looking for her birth mother - something she had avoided out of respect for him.
The rest of the action takes place in 2012 when Yacub, trying to escape Pakistan yet again stows away in the landing gear of a London bound plane and falls on to Harriet's car in the parking lot of a supermarket. Miraculously he survives and Harriet takes him in, at first hiding him from her family. Emily witnesses the falling man and in fact records it from her apartment window.
Over time the connections between all five characters are revealed - and not in the way I initially expected which was an interesting twist. I really liked all of the characters who are flawed but very human. I also enjoyed the brief sections which took place in Toronto since the characters frequented familiar places like the Boulevard Cafe and Pho Hung. I really recommend this book.