I could hardly write the alphabet when I had my first brush with the Lindbergh name. My parents took my sister and me in the back seat of a 1949 two door, navy blue Ford and headed to the drive-in with hopes we would go to sleep so they could see the movie “The Spirit of St. Louis”. My sister was out quickly, but I was hanging over the seat until somewhere near the point that the fly started bothering Jimmy Stewart in the cockpit!
When I was old enough to read everything in sight, I noticed the Anne Morrow Lindbergh memoirs on my Granny’s special shelf. I tried them but thought they made horrid reading. (I was in a stage of hating anything written in first person and these books were so old!) Then when Gran died, I carted these books home. I was a young wife and mother to a three year old at the time; I hoped I might like them more at that stage of my life or would find something on the pages that connected me to my Gran.
When I began to read, I was fascinated with the history and the personal achievements of the Lindberghs. I also wept with sorrow when I read about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I connected the dots and saw that Gran was about the same age as Anne Morrow Lindbergh with a baby of her own; she must have felt a connection with another mother's heart.
So then I began reading anything and everything Lindbergh. I read memoirs, biographies, and books by Reeve Lindbergh, the baby of the family. I gazed at the authentic Spirit of St. Louis hanging in the Smithsonian. I even gasped out loud when the more recent books revealed some imperfections in the personality of famous aviator, Lucky Lindy.
So when the new novel came out titled The Aviator’s Wife, I was prepared to not like it. I had no plans to read fiction, made up stories, when I had read so much thrilling Lindbergh non-fiction. Then I made a stop at the book store for something, and I found myself face to face with the book. It was the book’s cover that gave me pause. The retro clothes and nose of a prop plane in soft shades of mauve and brown…well, I decided to give the book a chance.
I was about a third of the way through the book when I ran smack into a shocking chapter. Hum. Was this stuff made up? Did the author create this out of thin air for plot enhancement? I could not stand it. I got up, walked to the computer and wrote the author asking what she based the scene on, where did she find the material, or did she just use poetic license to juice up the story? Author Melanie Benjamin wrote back in just a couple of hours with a full explanation and indeed, there was basis for what she put in the novel. She hoped I would keep reading. I did and I am glad.
While I was familiar with the Lindbergh story, Melanie Benjamin gave me a nice review of their life and added some new angles that were food for thought. She wrote about a marriage, a special one to be sure, but one that has all the highs and lows of any marriage. She writes the novel from Anne’s point of view and shows us the stages Anne went through as a woman, wife, and mother …ones many a wife can related to in their own lives today.
You can’t read this book and not care deeply for the characters, and to be honest, feeling at some points like you would like to shake them. Ms. Benjamin made these real people even more “real” on the page. They breathe in this novel!
Ms., Benjamin adds at the end of the novel an author’s note that explains how and why she wrote the book. I enjoyed these few brief pages so much and appreciated the lines she left me for further thought at the end of a great story. Here she comments, “…I was more interested in the emotion, the personal drama, than I was in giving a history lesson.”
Younger readers might remember Charles Lindbergh for his solo flight in 1927, but they probably won’t remember the accomplished flyer and writer Anne was. On pages of The Aviator’s Wife, they can meet these people and see their place in history, but also experience the drama of their lives as Benjamin intended.
I have already pulled AML’s book Gifts from the Sea for another reading, the fourth in my life so far. I intend to be on the lookout for Melanie Benjamin’s work, both older books and newer ones too. The Aviator’s Wife is a good read for writers, flyers, wives, mothers…ah, well it is perfect for all readers!
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