A man finds the wreck of a plane in the woods near his house. Inside is the body of the pilot and a bag of money. 4 million dollars. The only people who know about the wreck are the man, his brother, and his brother’s friend. They make a plan: they’ll take the money and wait for the plane to be discovered. If there’s any mention of the missing money, they’ll burn it to hide their involvement. If there is no mention of the money, then it will be theirs to keep. All they have to do is wait. It’s so simple.
Scott Smith’s novel of three everymen who come upon an extraordinary opportunity is a pure morality tale. It is the story of simple men and a simple temptation, and the novel shows the slow, steady decent of otherwise decent people into monstrosity. Every action the characters take leads them further and further into evil, even while they rationalize their choices. As their plan dissolves, each man becomes willing to do worse until the inevitable happens and the whole thing falls apart.
“A Simple Plan” is a book that feels much like a Cormac McCarthy novel. It’s characters are archetypical, every-day men doing only what they think is best in a world of hard circumstances. These are the typical American working class trying to make due with all they have, so it is hard not to sympathize with them. We can understand the feeling that they need the money, that they need it not to be found, that they need the evidence to disappear, that they need to stop people from questioning their actions, that they need to take desperate, possibly deadly action. Slowly, as if part of a plan, we watch as men very much like ourselves commit worse and worse crimes, justified every step of the way because it was “the only choice” they had. If you enjoy a suspenseful story or a penetrating look at the morality of men, then this is the one for you.