Kathleen Hughes, Author . Norton $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-05785-0

A passion for flight in the exhilarating early days of air travel and the deep demands of home and family form the background of this bittersweet debut novel. Growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1920s, Ruth Sheehan longs to fly like the glamorous lady barnstormers of the decade, but she isn't even permitted to go to nursing school. When pilot Henry Gutterson, a WWI vet, lands his airmail plane in her parents' field, she's given a chance at love—and at flight. As Henry's wife, Ruth navigates his airmail routes in their fragile Jenny, "the Model T" of planes. Pregnancy grounds her, but still she wants "to feel the world fall away from her, to feel the land flatten out and spread" in flight. When her second child dies, Ruth, convinced it is somehow her fault, retreats into private sorrow. She finds some comfort in writing unsolicited and unanswered letters to famous aviatrixes, especially to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, with whom she empathizes for the loss of her child. Though Henry, too, eventually quits flying, years later he encourages Ruth to renew her dream, to fly solo at last, at the age of 80. But Ruth and Henry then disappear during a Thanksgiving holiday, and their grown children must piece together the events of their last days. The trove of Ruth's letters reveals to them the desires and hopes she had long hidden. Hughes tells Ruth's story quietly and compassionately, and readers may brush away tears at the novel's affecting ending. Agent, Paula Balzer. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/15/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-393-32622-2
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-393-34467-7
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!