A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, November 10, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin - Feature and Review


For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.



The Aviator's WifeThe Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin is a 2013 Delacorte Press publication.

I vaguely remember hearing some buzz about this book a few years back, but, like so many books I intend to investigate, this one fell off my radar and I actually forgot all about it. Then I picked up “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” and it was so good, I went straight to my Overdrive account and checked out “Alice, I Have Been” and this book… The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.

This book is a work of fiction based on the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh.

I will confess, I tend to connect the Lindbergh’s to the horrible kidnapping and murder of their first child. I have read a few true crime books speculating on that case, and of course some insight was given as to what Anne and Charles were like behind closed doors. But, I’ve never read any kind of biography of  either Anne or Charles, so I was curious how the author would portray them.

I think many people were given the impression Anne was a quiet, shy lady, highly educated and articulate, and dignified. All these traits are presented here, but with fiction, we are free to explore what might have taken place behind closed doors, and hypothesize conversations and emotions. I believe the author did an amazing job of portraying Anne as a dutiful wife, a real lady, who found herself propelled out of her usual comfort zone, never entirely comfortable in the spotlight or in participating in all of her husband’s adventures. Yet, she grew to love flying and rose to all the challenges she faced as a public figure, married to a hero the entire world seemed to adore.

Historical fiction has become a favorite genre for me over the past couple of years. I love these books based on the wives of famous men or on infamous figures we only know from their public personas. However, not all historical fiction is created equally, especially when the portrait painted of the subject doesn’t ring true, or is flat out implausible, or entirely too many liberties have been taken with historical facts.

I readily admit, I knew very little about Anne Morrow before starting this book, but I felt this characterization of her was very believable and evoked a wide range of emotions in me. Often, heroes have feet of clay, and as we all know, Charles Lindbergh was no exception. He was a man of many accomplishments, but in his private life he was moody and difficult and emotionally unavailable to his wife and children, not to mention the eventual revelations of his double life.

Anne was long suffering, believing herself to be weak, having to fight tooth and nail to enjoy her role as a hands on parent, and rising to the occasion when Charles all but abandons her. Was Anne a saint in contrast with Charles’ infidelities? Apparently not, and I’m a strong, strong believer in the old adage about ‘two wrongs, not making a right”, however, one couldn’t help but feel for Anne and her plight and given the situation, I didn't hold it against her to the same extent I may have in other circumstances.
Anne, also made some monumental errors in judgment, most notably her stance on the war with Germany as she backed her husband's political views.

The only complaint I had, was that the story did drag on for a bit, and the ending, seemed just a bit abrupt as I did not find Charles’ explanations gave Anne the type of closure she deserved, and I was left feeling a little puzzled by how this portion of the story was presented.

Did Anne know about Charles’ secret life? One may never really know, but I do think she and Charles tried to ensure his legacy remained intact after his death, so the public and his children were spared the humiliation of knowing of his foibles.

(Note: Over the past few years, many details of Charles’ other families have been made public)

Overall, this is a story of marriage, of family, of failures, and triumphs and the personal growth of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a woman of fortitude, strength, ultimately gaining her own independence, soaring high on her own contributions and achievements. I was impressed by the author's ability to remain neutral in regards to Anne's life, and did not attempt to sway the reader one way or another, but I did find myself sympathizing with Anne and gained a respect for her as she faced incredible adversity and endured more than anyone could have imagined.

I was impressed by this intimate portrait of Anne Morrow and think perhaps Melanie Benjamin has this historical fiction thing down to a science. I’m really looking forward to reading more of her novels.





Melanie Benjamin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. An avid reader all her life--as a child, she was the proud winner, several years running, of the summer reading program at her local library--she still firmly believes that a lifetime of reading is the best education a writer can have.

While attending Indiana University--Purdue University at Indianapolis, Melanie performed in many community theater productions before meeting her husband, moving to the Chicago area and raising two sons. Writing was always beckoning, however, and soon she began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing into her first love, fiction.

By combining her passion for history and biography, she has found her niche writing historical fiction, concentrating on the "stories behind the stories." Her most recent novel, THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE, a novel about Truman Capote and his high society Swans, is a New York Times, USA Today and Indiebound best seller, as was her novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, THE AVIATOR'S WIFE. Her first novel, ALICE I HAVE BEEN, was a national bestseller; this was followed by the critically acclaimed THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB. Her next novel, THE GIRLS IN THE PICTURE, a novel about early Hollywood and the creative friendship between Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, will be out in January 2018.

She and her family still live in the Chicago area; when she's not writing, she's gardening, taking long walks, rooting for the Cubs--

And reading, of course.

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