Monthly Archives: April 2020

HER LAST FLIGHT

Beatrix Williams won’t disappoint her fans with this latest book when it hits the shelves in June of 2020. She has all her trademark elements – strong women, mystery, plot twists, historical time frames, and in her own words “sexual power”.

“Sexual power is something I deal with in every single book because it’s so fascinating and essential to the process of becoming an adult and the power negotiation between men and women.”

Her Last Flight captures the spitfire spirit of the early aviatrixes like Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols and Louise Thadon. Although there are strong inferences to Amelia Earhart, this is not a fictional accounting of her life. References to lead character, Irene Foster’s interest in surfing is likely modeled after surfers like Isabel Lethan.

Bardenas Reales, Spain. January 1947.
War correspondent, Janey Everett, stands alone in the desolate whipping desert sands next to the remains of a Spanish military aircraft.  A clue has led her here. She has been on the search for the whereabouts of a daredevil stunt pilot, Sam Mallory, who disappeared in 1937. Inside the cockpit, she finds human remains and Sam Mallory’s personal journal. The discovery of Sam’s journal is invaluable for the completion of  her current literary project; a Sam Mallory biography.

Reading the dusty journal, Everett is startled to find a clue about Sam Mallory’s most famous aviation student, Irene Foster, who also disappeared in flight. Foster and Mallory, in 1928, were the most famous aviators with a history of flying together on long distance rallies. By 1937, Irene Foster was flying solo. On a flight circumnavigating the globe, she failed to arrive at a planned stop to meet up with her husband, George Morrow. Extensive searches concluded she was lost at sea. Yet, Sam’s last journal entry from 1937 was a scrawled message – GM to rescue at last thank God She will live.  Could Irene Foster have left her husband and traveled to Spain to be with Sam? Was she with Sam when his plane crashed? Is she alive?

Janey Everett, hungry for first-hand knowledge about Sam Mallory, employs all her investigative skills to unearth clues to Irene’s whereabouts. Skills that include employing her supersized libido to seduce information from Sam and Irene’s closest past associates.  Irene, indeed, survived and has living the past ten years as a recluse in a small Hawaiian ocean-side town.

Hanalei, Hawai’i October 1947
The day comes that the two women meet face to face. The lionesses circle each other cautiously. Each has carefully guarded secrets. They meet, alone, at the ocean where Irene has been surfing. They parry. Janey plays her trump card – Sam’s journal. Stone-faced, Irene tells her, “Come with me.”

We know that Janey is successful in discovering Irene’s secrets but we are dealt them out like bits of a Hershey bar – bite by bite.  Irene’s story, told from her perspective, appears in excerpts from Janey’s book, the Aviatrix. that begins with a timeline of 1928. 

Alternate chapters are written present day that begins in 1947 as the two women leave the beach together.

The two story lines have just the right tension and plot twists to keep the reader guessing the ending. The astute reader might spot clues; but not everything is as it first seems. What I liked in particular was the historical coverage of the early aviation. The bravery of those early aviators barnstorming in planes  that were as safe as running a soapbox car in a NASCAR race. And who can not love Sandy, Sam’s cat who travels through the book showering love and contentment to soften the often highly charged scenes.

Nice read during these turbulent times.
Thank you, LibraryThing.com Early Readers for selecting me to read an ARC of the book.

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THE BOOK OF LONGINGS: a novel

 

 

 

He said he heard rumblings inside me while I slept, a sound of thunder . . . All my life, longings lived inside me, rising up like nocturnes to wail and sing through the night . . . What he heard was my life begging to be born.

Book Summary:
The Book of Longings is a work of fiction.

Ana, the daughter of the chief scribe to Herod expresses her longings to be remembered throughout time in this pseudo-diary account of her life. She wants the world to know what life was like for a woman in the time of Herod and Pontius Pilate – and what  life would look like if you buck the system.

Her story is a simple but harsh one. Women, in general, had no rights. They’re property to use and misuse. Wealthy men use their daughters as bargaining chips to enhance their wealth and power. The lower class women live lives of arduous physical labor while bearing child after child.

Sue Monk Kidd has chosen to present Ana as representative of all women – rich and poor- who dare to speak out, who seek recognition to make an impact on their own as  individuals; women with the right to chose their own futures and live their own dreams.

Ana’s early childhood in an upper class home was unorthodox. She preferred learning foreign languages and idles away time in her father’s library developing talents as a scribe. Her relationship with her mother is contentious as Ana refuses to learn skills necessary to become a subservient wife. Her relationship with her father is distant. He doesn’t so much indulge Ana as overlook her quirky behavior with disinterest.

When Ana is fourteen-years-old, she begins her menses, and is quickly betrothed by her father to an old beetle-eyed and cruel landowner. Ana’s introduction to her betrothed is a public spectacle in the heart of the marketplace intended to highlight the high status of both families. Her reaction upon meeting her intended was to faint dead-away. She is rescued from her fall by a young bearded man who visage brings on “odd smelting” in her thighs.

The old goat croaks before the marriage takes place. And more importantly before it is consummated. The death marks Ana’s future as it is assumed that the betrothed Ana is no longer a virgin thus useless baggage to society. Ana at fourteen-years-old, is seen as a widow facing a bleak future through no fault of her own.

Ana defies social custom and wanders the forest and hills nearby for solace and discovers a cave – and in the cave she discovers the kind savior from the market, the young peasant, praying. They introduce themselves and she learns his name is Jesus. This unlikely duo form a close friendship that ultimately leads to marriage.

There is no doubt that Ana and Jesus love each other unconditionally. In one touching scene, Ana earns the endearing nickname “Little Thunder” as Jesus overhears some internal struggle occurring inside her gut while she slept. She, expresses her love, by calling him Beloved.

For Ana, moving to Jesus’s family compound filled with siblings and their spouses is a shock. She has to partake in harsh physical tasks that she assumes to the best of her ability. In time, their marriage is strained as Jesus begins to realize that he has a mission from God that he must fulfill and begins to spend massive amounts of time away from Ana. The day arrives that Jesus tells Ana that he must go on alone to discover what he must do to fulfill his predestined future.

Ana never gives up on Jesus. Her life, after he leaves her, is one tragic day after another. With the help of other enlightened people, she is provided the means to document her story returning to her own passion as a scribe. Through Ana we follow the final days of Jesus concluding with his death. We feel her agony as she witnesses his final steps burdened with the weight of the cross. We cry with her as she stands at the foot of the cross.

Reviewer’s Note:
Phew. This was a hard one. It took me a couple of weeks to address this review. Here is it is, Easter weekend 2020, sheltering in my home. Ana’s story is powerful but being married to our Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth will always beg top billing.

The book, well-researched, at times felt stilted and started out slowly in my estimation. Things did speed up as familiar Biblical names and scenes entered the story line. By the end of the book, I was in tears.

Now with the world crushed by Covid-19, and several of my family valiantly serving on the medical front lines, my nerves are on edge and affects how I perceive or react to things. This prickly reaction to things, that in the past would roll off my back like water off a duck, most certainly affected my review of this fiction that touches sensitive religious topics.

Ana’s need for her husband, Jesus, to be “just a man” bumps up against his insatiable need to serve his God. After years of my viewing Jesus in stained glass windows rocking a halo it felt, at times, strange to see him described as a plain and simple man, just like the rest of us poor souls. Vulnerable and weak. I am not a deeply religious person so my discomfort was surprising to me.

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