Review of The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
Overview from www.goodreads.com: 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.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this one at first. I mean, I knew about Charles Lindbergh, “Lucky Lindy,” and his flight to Paris in his little Spirit of Saint Louis. But what did I really know about his wife? Almost nothing. I only really remembered that her name was Anne Morrow Lindbergh which is somewhat interesting in and of itself since her maiden name was included as part of her full name. That must have been unusual for that time.
Still what did she really do? This book seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to get an answer to that question and it succeeded. Yes, I know it is fiction but the great thing about Historical Fiction is that it usually doesn’t deviate from the facts too much—that is, person, place, or thing—but instead explores, fictionally, the why and the how. And we get a lot of that in this book.
Anne is not at all what I thought she would be. A shy and awkward girl we first meet her as the second daughter of the recently appointed U.S. ambassador to Mexico. The family all hopes that his success in board room will translate into success in the political arena.
Soon Lucky Lindy enters the picture and seems like an ideal match for Anne’s older sister Elizabeth. But Charles is shy and soon reveals that all he wants is to get away from the press that has been stalking him and continue doing what he loves.
Charles takes her on her first flight and she falls in love instantly, both with him and flying itself. Sure the cockpit is loud and noisy and crazy. Charles is hard to figure out. Yet she feels inexplicably drawn to both.
But then Anne is sent back to the family home to take care of her brother who is not quite right in the head and it seems like a relationship with Charles is out the question. She does manage to fly again at least, in the passenger seat.
Finally the unthinkable happens and Charles shows up at her door with a marriage proposal. Though she hardly knows him, she accepts right away but this is just the beginning of her life adventure and loneliness.
At Charles’ insistence she becomes one of the first female pilots ever. Together they travel the world, leaving their baby behind. I expect that the guilt that Anne feels about leaving her child behind is something that any mother can relate to as she goes off to work leaving her child at daycare except Anne is gone for months. And when her baby is later kidnapped, the guilt nearly kills her. But Anne is angry that Charles seems unaffected by it.
The ups and downs of her life tell a compelling tale that hides beneath her own overlooked accomplishments in favor of her husband’s. Her inner struggle with supporting her husband not only politically but emotionally and being a good mother for her children make for an interesting inside look into what Anne might have been thinking all those years. I think you will agree.