Friday, May 23, 2008

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

To be relieved of love, she thought, was to give up a terrible burden.

How much can you ever truly know another human being? Does being married for over a decade prove you know something, anything? Does having and raising a child with someone guarantee you a bond with them that will help you understand them? It’s harder to be sure of anything, of course, if the person you think you know is away traveling with work quite often, if you’ve never met any of their relatives, and they have a separate bank account that you don’t have access to.

These are the things that our main character, Kathryn, is faced with. The novel opens when a man named Robert from the pilots' union wakes Kathryn up at three in the morning to tell her that her husband Jack, a pilot, has passed away due to an explosion on his plane over the coast of Ireland. Robert has to stay with Kathryn to keep her from speaking to the press, to console her, and to provide a certain level of security for her when the press comes out with the theory that Robert might have been committing suicide and dragging over a hundred other people down with him due to what was heard on the CVR recording from the moments leading up to the explosion. When Robert starts to leak her information he isn’t suppose to and starts spending time with her after his work obligations have been fulfilled, it’s hard to tell what his motivations are and what his actions mean.


The grief in the novel is very real and my heart ached for the characters. Kathryn has lost a husband, is seeing her young daughter fall apart in response to the crash, and is finding out that Jack is a completely different man than she thought he was. As a pilot with a set route, he lived back and forth between two different countries, being America and Ireland. In America, he has Katheryn and their daughter. In Ireland, he has a different wife and family, a strong connection to the Catholic community, and a highly risky and illegal involvement with the IRA that comes to be the death of him. The novel closes when the two wives meet and the details of the crash finally come together for Kathryn.

I really enjoyed this book, but I can’t see the other 50BPers reading it and being drawn in the same way. It’s a little too heavy to be “chick lit” and I think it’s fair to say that the writing is fairly literary, but The Pilot’s Wife will never be on any kind of Times must-read list.

The Pilot’s Wife was published in 1998. It was made into a movie for television. I found out from the New York Times online that it was scheduled to air right after September 11th, 2001 but had to be pushed back out of respect due to the relevance of the story line to our nation’s tragedy.


Elizabeth said...

I was so going to read this book. :) Maybe I will wait to read the review until then.

Brooke said...

I highly recommend it. Shreve wrote quite the page turner with The Pilot's Wife. I'm going to start reading her book Sea Glass soon.

My review gives too much away about the plot twists, so saving the review for later is a good idea. I hope you like it!

rohit said...

An enjoyable read The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.