Monday, February 11, 2013

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Shy Anne Morrow is just a 21-year-old Smith College graduate, unsure of herself or her future when she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh for the first time.  Anne's father is the U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Lindbergh, fresh from his heroic trans-Atlantic flight to Paris, is at work spreading flight diplomacy.  Shy Anne is sure Charles will be taken with her prettier, more outgoing sister, so she's amazed to find the hero that her whole country worships has taken an unexpected interest in her.  Before she knows it, she's flying with the best pilot ever to grace the skies, and he chooses her to share his life. 

Little does Anne suspect that the exciting beginning days of their romance, buoyed by their flights together mapping routes for the future of commercial flight will melt into years where she is stolen away from her children and family to appease her stubborn husband's demands.  The couple's fame means they can't even go to the theatre without a disguise, and eventually marks them for tragedy when their firstborn son is kidnapped.  The Aviator's Wife explores the couple's shared history from Anne's point of view and reveals the lesser known half of the famous couple. 

Let's just cut to the chase.  I loved this book in a way that I haven't loved a book for months.  The Aviator's Wife is a vividly imagined, nuanced portrait of one of America's best loved couples, a pair that was looked to for strength and guidance throughout pivotal parts of American history regardless of how normal or even flawed they might have been.  In Benjamin's hands, Anne Morrow Lindbergh emerges from her famous husband's shadow as a woman who may easily have been stronger than the man himself, despite her often frustrating deference to her husband.  The couple's story comes to life in Benjamin's perfectly-pitched first-person narration.  I loved how Benjamin broke down a complicated relationship between two complicated individuals and made it fairly leap off the page from its uncertain beginnings to its heartrending end. 

Additionally, seeing Charles Lindbergh through his imagined wife's eyes is similarly captivating.  A stoic hero and a difficult man leaps off Benjamin's pages.  He is stubborn and frustrating, better able to maneuver machines than deal with people, but he is also a man fiercely determined from a young age to do right by the American people who made him a hero, who is bent on protecting his wife and family, who believes his wife can do whatever she sets her mind to and urges her to become always more.  Through Anne's eyes we find a man who was terribly flawed, but a man that Anne admired and loved just the same.  Benjamin draws out the human being behind the myth and does it with such flair that we feel just as eager to love or to hate him as Anne herself might have. 

In her author's note, Melanie Benjamin says, "That is what historical fiction does best, I think; it leaves the reader with a desire to know more," and so The Aviator's Wife has.  I went into the book knowing relatively little about the "First Couple of the Air," and came out fully satisfied with Benjamin's beautifully told story, but also with a great curiosity to learn even more about Charles Lindbergh, and his wife who had the courage both to live in and finally to emerge from his shadow. 

The Aviator's Wife will be available on February 19th.  If historical fiction is your thing, or you've ever had a hankering to take a peak behind the scenes at the Lindbergh family, or if you just want to read a powerful book with incredibly vivid characters you absolutely won't want to miss this one. 

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book for my copy.  Click the banner for more stops on the tour!


  1. I really want to read this book! I've read one of her other books and was entrhralled the whole time that I read it. Great review!

  2. Wow, thank you for your wonderful review, Megan!

  3. Wow!! You've made this sound magnificent. I have it on audio and will bump it up in my stacks.

  4. I love reading a review in which the passion is so obvious!