cover image Leaving Earth

Leaving Earth

Helen Humphreys. Metropolitan Books, $22 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5957-1

Toronto in 1933 provides the setting for this captivating first novel about two aviatrixes who attempt to set a new world endurance record by flying 25 days nonstop, circling the city in the open cockpit of their Moth biplane. Veteran barnstormer ""Air Ace"" Grace O'Gorman chooses novice Willa Briggs as a last-minute replacement for her ailing co-pilot. As days pass, mechanical failures, nasty weather and chronic fatigue threaten to curtail the flight, while the two pilots, hoarse from yelling over the roar of the wind, become close friends, communicating through sign and touch. Meanwhile, in a parallel earthbound plot, young Maddy Stewart, who idolizes Air Ace Grace, struggles to maintain her equilibrium when her Jewish mother, a carnival fortune-teller, becomes the target of a Nazi-inspired hate group. The two plots intersect when Maddy pulls the fliers from their beached aircraft. Inspired by an actual event that occurred in the skies over Miami, Fla., Humphreys has captured the courage and commitment of aviation's unsung pioneers, the sights and sounds of earth and sky and the somber mood of 1930s Toronto, all with a precise lyricism that amply demonstrates her talent as a poet. (Sept.) FYI: Humphreys has received the Governor's General Prize for her poetry, and the Vancouver Sun named her Best Young Canadian Novelist in 1997.