Friday, February 04, 2011

I quite liked 'The Pilot's Wife'

Shreve, Anita. the Pilot's Wife. London: Little, Brown, 1999 (1998).

The Pilot's Wife begins simply, with a simple announcement that changes the life of Kathryn Lyons, whose pilot husband Jack has just died in a plane crash. Intermingling the story of Kathryn's present-day grief with reflective chapters telling the story of their meeting, courtship, and early marriage, Shreve manages to write a remarkable novel that is both an intimate examination of what it means to be married and a fast-paced tale whose mystery rises to the surface as the circumstances of Jack's plane crash grow ever less definite.

Kathryn's story is one of memories and pain: even as she struggles to come to terms with her husband's death, she becomes increasingly perplexed by the complicated question of what it means to know another person intimately. How deeply did she know her husband, and how well can she know her daughter? The decade of memories surrounding her relationship with both of these, and the sudden closeness she feels to the man who first broke the news of her husband's passage help to make this a wonderful, complicated novel that is difficult to define with any of the typical genres. It is a story of adventure, mystery, and even danger and betrayal, but it is also an excellent and close examination of what it means to be a human being, living in community with others, and what it means to be a family, a parent, or a spouse. The thematic complexities blended with the excellent and engaging storytelling in this novel make it one of the most rewarding reads I've enjoyed this year.

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