Tag Archives: smuggling

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

It happens! Not very often, but often enough. A plane crashes! Sometimes in your own “back yard”! I remember that midwinter’s night about nine years ago, bitterly cold and clear, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence, NY, not even ten miles from my house, even closer to the Buffalo International Airport. Everyone knew someone affected, such as the cantor at the synagogue up the street, the wife of a professor at UB who was teaching a class I was taking at the Teacher Center on Asian Culture. We were discussing the Great Wall of China and I said that was on my bucket list, “what’s that,” he asked; awkwardly I realized my mistake as I explained the term, knowing it was too late for his wife to make such requests.

Pilot error! I thought about the pilots who didn’t realize how quickly those wings would ice up on a Buffalo winter’s evening or how important that they maintain control and not rely on the autopilot so as to avoid the danger of a stall. I thought of their families, their spouses and parents, their friends, and how they all suffered along with those of the other 47 on board (plus the older gentleman in the home where they crashed) on that fateful night just minutes from landing safely.

So when I picked up The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve, I was reading a scenario I had already mentally examined, yet living it through the eyes of fictional character Kathryn Lyons, whose husband was accused of committing suicide at the expense of the 103 passengers and crew on board the Heathrow to Boston flight. This is a heart wrenching tale, pulling the reader into the roller coaster of emotions which result from such a tragedy. Through a flashback of thoughts we are given the details of what appears to be the perfect marriage, yet there are little hints that something was somehow a little off kilter, just mildly, but in retrospect significant. In this way Kathryn starts to piece together the truth with the support of union rep Robert Hart who helps her navigate past the disruptions of the questioning reporters, the investigators from the Safety Board, and even the FBI, as well as assist her in creating enough semblance of normalcy to provide closure through a memorial service and the upcoming Christmas holidays. Kathryn can’t completely fall apart because she has her fifteen year old daughter Mattie to care for, although her grandmother Julie is there for support, just as she was when Kathryn’s parents tragically died.

Well written, full of angst despite some tender moments, and, while not altogether unexpected, there are a few twists and turns in the story that propels us through to the end. Paying attention to the little details might provide enough clues to answer some of the questions left after reading the open ended conclusion, especially since Shreve doesn’t let the plot drag on, but keeps it going just long enough to get the job done.

I would be remiss in not examining the life of the author, Anita Shreve, who died this past August at the age of 71 from a reoccurrence of breast cancer. Shreve, who grew up in Boston but spent her summers in Maine, believed that the focal point of any story should be the family home -“a house with any kind of age has dozens of stories to tell”. The particular residence in The Pilot’s Wife was an 1890s white-clapboard house with a mansard roof located on the coast of southern Maine reminiscent of the place where the author spent her summer vacations. Her love of this childhood spot extended to the sea, a setting which becomes like an additional character in the narrative. When Shreve overheard a conversation about a plane crash, she thought of her father, who was an airplane pilot, and couldn’t help imagining how she would feel if she were the pilot’s wife. That lead to this novel as well as the 2002 screenplay she wrote for the made for television movie.

Jack kept a lot of secrets from his wife, and ironically Shreve also had her share of secrets. Her husband Osborne, a childhood sweetheart she reconnected with in later years, confessed that she was so quiet about her personal life that even he didn’t know the names of two of her former three husbands. Perhaps the need for intimacy is why the author preferred to write her stories in longhand, feeling that it brought her closer to the subject matter than the use of an electronic device.

Her last book, The Stars Are Fire, which I recently read, takes place in the same relative locale in Maine with a vintage house and the sea also playing a major role in that story’s development. It is sad that there will be no further endeavors by this particular author whose name was thrust on to the public’s radar when The Pilot’s Wife was chosen for the Oprah Book Club in 1999.

A compelling read. Four stars.

Advertisements

Artemis by Andy Weir

It’s refreshing to read a true SF novel. Lately, unless you are reading a book featuring Star Wars or Star Trek, the focus seems to be on fantasy or dystopia. We won’t touch on vampires and werewolves, although if that is your pleasure you are in luck.

Artemis by Andy Weir, however, is about life in a man-made city on the moon. The author has created a realistic world with scientific explanations which seem realistic to my untrained mind. Jazz Bashara, the main character, is a true antihero, who at twenty eight is still acting like a rebellious teenager doing a little smuggling, along with her day job as a porter, to pay for her meager lifestyle. She manages though dreams of something better – a bigger bed, her own bathroom, better food choices – all beyond her financial means. Then the deal of a lifetime falls into her lap, a way to make some real money and maybe repair the broken relationship with her dad. This one requires quite a bit of planning and luckily she has a natural ability to pick up information on the fly along with some innate skills perfected at her father’s knee as well as the general knowledge necessary to nullify the safeguards surrounding the moon’s life support systems (without getting herself killed). Yet the relatively “simple” task of sabotage becomes a deadly game placing those she holds near and dear in danger. Time to call in all her favors, even if it means swallowing her pride and overriding her principles.

Add in a stoic father who wants what’s best for his only daughter, a former best friend who has the same taste in men, a geeky coworker willing to lend a hand, a security officer just looking for a reason to deport her back to earth, a childhood pen pal from Kenya who has some helpful connections, and a client who inadvertently bites off more than he can chew.

While I enjoyed the basic concept and liked the mystery tour Weir took us on, there was a bit too much technical detail for my taste. I like a bit of science to make it all seem doable, but my focus is always on the fiction. However, the action will translate into a great movie, since this novel has just as much big screen potential as The Martian. Creating a female main character seemed to be a bit of a challenge for Weir and she came off a little too juvenile at times, though her glib, wise cracking attitude along with all those smarts were a refreshing change of pace which lead to some clever, if somewhat cliched, dialogue.

I’m ready to purchase my ticket.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads. S

A Perilous Passion by Elizabeth Keysian

After a mishap in the army fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, Rafe Pemeroy, the Earl of Beckport, needs to clear his name. What better way than exposing the head of a smuggling ring who is selling secrets to the French and assisting their attempts to invade England? Posing as a country squire, Mr. “Seaborne” attempts to gain the confidence of the locals. Unfortunately, he suspects they are all somehow involved with the smuggling aspect of the scheme, a practice he frowns upon. Thus he mistrusts everyone in the seaside town of Dorset, including Miss Charlotte Allston, a headstrong miss who seems to be everywhere he looks. Little does he know that the woman who has captured his heart is actually the daughter of Abraham Cutler, the notorious smuggler from the North Sea who was murdered before he could finish giving evidence and receive a Royal Pardon. Despite Rafe’s misgivings about becoming romantically involved, he can’t stop feeling the connection between them, especially since Charlotte is constantly showing up at inconvenient times and places.

To keep them both safe, Charlotte and her mother have changed their names and moved in with Aunt Flora. Mrs. Cutler requires her daughter to be chaperoned, usually by her somewhat lax sister, due to a previous indiscretion where Charlotte attempted to elope with her childhood sweetheart, Justin Jessop. Justin, now serving in the army in Scotland, sends her letters full of complaints about his mistreatment at the hands of his military superiors, so it isn’t a complete surprise when he turns up in Dorset in search of his former love. By this time Charlotte has become infatuated with Lord Beckport (instantly recognized by her Ton savvy mom) and realizes that this previous relationship was just puppy love and not the real thing. Jessop, considered an army deserter, needs her assistance to survive, so she turns to Rafe to provide backup support. Numerous complications could easily mess up Rafe’s plans to stop the enemy from landing on British soil, but by working together the three “patriots” might find a way to rescue each other and their country.

Elizabeth Keysian has presented the reader with some interesting characters in the Pre- Regency Romance, A Perilous Passion, book one in the Wanton in Wessex series. Unfortunately, the majority of the plot centers around the meandering Charlotte and the judgmental Rafe, ignoring the potential of the flighty Aunt and her apothecary “friend”. Told from alternative points of view, we learn the secrets about the two lovers who have a tendency to dwell on their pasts a tad too much. Despite a strong beginning, the middle of the novel sagged a bit while waiting for the next spate of action. The dastardly villain did not disappoint and the resolution of everybody’s troubles made for an acceptable happily ever after, even for the jilted Justin Jessop. The various attempts at humor revolving around sneezing and an allergy to horses did not quite hit the mark, but the romance was more than satisfying.
Romance

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.