The Aviator's Wife
Melanie Benjamin has assigned Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh, the storyteller in her book "The Aviator's Wife." The result is that Charles Lindbergh's co-pilot in the air, and in life, relates an interesting account of the couple's adventures amidst the clouds as well as on the ground. The aviatrix exposes a marriage built upon dependence and high expectation rather than mutual love. Though it is historical fiction, the imaginary and the true are blended together successfully to form a realistic account of their experiences both in private and while under the constant scrutiny of a public painting them as celebrities.
The reader is first introduced to the characters on Christmas Eve of 1927. The shy Anne Spencer Morrow meets the famous and distinguished Charles Lindbergh at a party in Mexico where Anne's father is serving as the American Ambassador, and Charles is his distinguished guest. She is taken with his mystique and he with her blind devotion, and they are married after an incomplete courtship.
At times, the chapters are interrupted by the year 1974 when the bulk of the Lindbergh's marriage is behind them, and Charles is faced with the imminent end of his illustrious life. Time is running out. Anne seeks closure with answers to questions that have gone virtually ignored for 45 years. Characteristic of marriage, the years brought pleasure and pain: five children born after the unfathomable kidnapping of their firstborn son; hero status for Charles after his trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris, and accolades for Anne who served as Charles' co-pilot after their marriage and was the first licensed female glider pilot in the U.S. However, in spite of all their accomplishments and togetherness, the distance between them often spanned the distance of an ocean.
Benjamin does a commendable job bringing the Lindberghs back to life. From the headlines surrounding the infamous kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby to Charles' questionable allegiances in Europe preceding World War II, the author delves into the events and resulting emotions with great intensity. While Anne Morrow Lindbergh concentrates on the strengths and weaknesses of her beloved husband, she also exposes much about herself. As a parent, she flew solo as her husband's escapades kept him away from his family, she suffered in silence when her baby was taken from her, and her life's desire was to be a celebrated writer. She accompished the latter with her penning of "A Gift from the Sea" and her deep involvement with author Charles Lindbergh's publication "The Spirit of St. Louis."
Benjamin reminds readers that "the aviator's wife" seized opportunities during a time in history when most women were content at home or willing to walk in the shadow of a husband. She had the support of her own husband, "Lucky Lindy", who, in spite of his flaws, encouraged his wife to break barriers and venture away from the home. Anne Morrow Lindbergh proved that women could have their head in the clouds and still accomplish what once seemed impossible for a woman of her generation.
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