About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

#96 - The Pilot's Wife

Whew. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. This was a big backlog even for me. Consequently, I probably won't do The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve (Back Bay Books, 1998), justice. Even so, it seems I've got another trusty source of quick, entertaining reads in my pocket. I started this one while marooned at the garage this morning, and finished it late this afternoon after knocking off a kick-@$$ cover letter and resume. Yeah, it's an Oprah book, candy for the brain, but I still liked it.

The tale begins with Kathryn Lyons awakened in the middle of the night by a knock at the door that will change her life irrevocably: her husband Jack's plane has gone down off the coast of Ireland. Along with the usual burdens of losing a loved one -- telling their 15 year old daughter, Mattie; making funeral arrangements -- come a hefty dose of the extraordinary. Given the public nature of the crash, the Lyons' home is quickly surrounded by a media maelstrom. Speculation about what caused the crash and whether Jack was responsible only fuel the reporters' curiosity, and compound Kathryn and Mattie's isolation. As evidence surfaces piece by piece, Kathryn can't help but question how well she knew her husband, and what she can be certain of.

Interspersed with the post-crash scenes are Kathryn's recollections of her life with Jack, beginning with their meeting at her grandmother's antique shop some 16 years earlier, and leading up to his departure for London that last morning. Certainly, this isn't a new technique, but Shreve manages it with far more nuance than some. These flashbacks aren't heavy-handed clues to Jack's death or the facets Kathryn didn't see; they're merely the fabric of a marriage, seen in retrospect.

Similarly, one plot development I'd feared almost from the beginning doesn't actually happen, which is a good thing. I'm not fond of spoilers, so I'll just say that an obvious cliche was nicely sidestepped.

Great literature this isn't, but a good vacation or rainy-day read? You betcha.

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