Friday, June 22, 2018

Flying at Night

Title:  Flying at Night
Author:  Rebecca L. Brown
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2018. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0399585990 / 978-0399585999

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "You would think that a woman names after a plane, the daughter of the briefly famous emergency-landing pilot 'the Sliver Eagle,' would feel at home in the sky."

Favorite Quote:  "Through I was used to adjustments for Fred's quirks, I had been raised to prize politeness above all else, so I always slunk away with my tail between my legs instead of marching out with my middle finger raised in salute to all the assholes who judged my son and me."

The author's note to the book reads, "Flying at Night is an ode to mothers who fight impossible battles for their children every day without blinking, go to sleep and get up and do the same again. We never know the hidden struggles that others are waging unless we bring our own pain and heartache out of the darkness and share it. We share it for one reason:  so others know they are are not alone." It is, however, than that.

It is about the challenges of being the sandwich generation, taking care of both children and aging parents. It is about the complicated, relationship between a daughter and her father - the sense of responsibility and the pent up emotions of things left unsaid and unquestioned. It is about the scars emotional abuse suffered as a child leaves behind. It is about the struggle with depression. It is about the unique parenting challenges of raising a special needs child. It is about the bond between a grandparent and a grandson, a relationship in which you can have all the joys of enjoying the child and none of the responsibility.

Piper is the daughter of a father who was a hero to the public and a distant, controlling man at home. She is also mother to nine year old Fred, who she at first deems idiosyncratic but knows deep down that it is more than that.

The plot of this character driven debut novel is a relatable one. Fred is learning to navigate his world. Piper is learning a whole new language as she loves her child and tries to do the best for him. Lance, Piper's father, has always been distant. That is, until he has a heart attack and suffers brain damage, and his wife leaves him. Out of a sense of responsibility, Piper takes on his care. In doing so, she invites Lance back into her life and into Fred's life. In living together, life and relationships evolve.

The book alternates chapters between the perspectives of these three main characters. The chapter titles are the names, but their voices are so distinct that the jumps are clear. For the two adults, their "voice" also includes reflections of the past, and how the relationship between father and daughter changes through the years.

The author's biography adds a very personal perspective to this book. Ms. Brown is a mother to three boys; her oldest was diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder at age ten. She is mother writing something that is her reality. I don't know if Fred's character is based on her son, but in my mind, that connection to her life gives credibility to both the characters of Piper and Fred.

There are aspects of the story that leave me wondering - Lance's attachment to his dog and the role of Piper's husband Isaac in particular. Both have significance, but both are left open to interpretation.  The book is touching, and the ending is a surprise to me. In hindsight, I can see it, but not in first reading the book. It leaves me thinking at the end.

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

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