Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Secrets of Flight

Title:  The Secrets of Flight
Author:  Maggie Leffler
Publication Information:  William Morrow Paperbacks. 2016. 384 pages.
ISBN:  006242792X / 978-0062427922

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through Edelweiss free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It was my eighty-seventh birthday when my sister Sarah walked into the meeting room of the Carnegie Library."

Favorite Quote:  "Every family has secrets and they're usually only important to the people who are keeping them."

A decision made in the name of love reverberates decades later. That is the theme of The Secrets of Flight. Told in alternating voices, the book weaves past and present into a story of how Mary Browning was once Miriam Lichtenstein. The alternating perspectives are so different that this book feels like reading three independent stories. The stories fold into one, but nevertheless, the voices and central themes of each remain uniquely distinct.

Mary Browning is age 88, a widow, and leading a quiet life with her apartment, her memories, and her library writing group. Mary's story is one of regrets and one of remembrance. It is a story of hiding and pretending even when there is no need to do so. It is about still coming to terms with a decision made decades ago - a decision that brings heartache but also brings much love to Mary's life. Mary's story is the saddest of the three because her life centers on regret. Her choices seem to have closed her off to the joys and friendship surrounding her, but, at the same time, it's hard to be engaged with Mary because her story seems closed off and the least developed.

Elyse Stickler is fifteen, with all the angst that implies - school, parents, siblings, friends, and boys.  Her parents are getting divorced. She is a misfit in school, waiting for one special boy to notice her. She has a fight with her best friend. Her grandma is sick. Her instant connection with Mary seems a stretch, but perhaps in keeping with an impulsive teenager. Elyse's story is the most alive and the most emotion filled, more so than either Mary or Miriam. Thus, it gives the book an overall young adult feel.

Miriam "Miri" Lichtenstein's story is the story of Mary's past. It is about a young Jewish girl in World War II, a dream of flying, and a love. Wrapped up in Miriam's story are several major topics - World War II, aviation history, women's rights, and religious prejudice. The history of the fly girls is new to me and, as with most historical fiction, inspires me to learn more. However, although the book is titled the secrets of flight, it really becomes about the secrets that Miriam keeps and the life choices that she makes. Her fly girl history becomes just a background for her story. It takes a me while to realize that the "flight" in the title perhaps has more meaning than the literal flying of planes.

Tying these stories together is a big mysterious connection except that it is really not a mystery. To this reader, the connection becomes clear pretty close to the beginning of the book, and then it's a wait until the characters see it. Given the ages of the characters involved, the connection seems too slight to be truly believable. The melodramatic ending does not help that believability. Thus, overall, the book does not quite ring true, but is still a quick and entertaining read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment