Here is a great example of terrific historical fiction, a realistic look into the public and private lives of Anne Morrow and her famous aviator husband, Charles Lindbergh. Melanie Benjamin takes on a well-known subject and fills in the gaps with a portrayal of the personal conversations that we know must have occurred between the two. She lets us imagine how Anne felt during her marriage, first to Charles the pilot and then to the Charles who left her and their five children alone for long stretches and who ultimately betrayed her.
I had known about Charles Lindbergh the pilot and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. And I had read Gift from the Sea, a collection of Morrow’s thoughts on relationships, family and her own solitude. In recent years I heard on the news about a different side of Charles Lindbergh, the man who also had three secret families in Europe. The Aviator’s Wife shows us that Anne Morrow was an accomplished pilot and navigator who accompanied her husband on many transatlantic flights. Charles relied a great deal on her, but he was not capable of being the husband she deserved.
Benjamin also describes how Lindbergh’s career changes as flight technology advances and he takes on more advisory roles. His pro-Nazi comments made him a controversial figure in the late 1930s and his alliance with Henry Ford, a known anti-Semite, made him extremely unpopular during this time and ruined his long friendship with the Guggenheims.
So many times the people who do great things are selfishly focused, unable to see either left or right, only straight ahead. I think this must be how Charles was. Anne found her own way to shine, by being a mother, by writing and by forming her own important relationships.
Like the many times we all wish we could go back to a time in our own lives and say the things we didn’t think to say, or had the courage to speak, Benjamin gives us all, through Anne, the chance to confront Charles and ask him to explain his betrayal.
I won’t spoil it. In the end, Benjamin gives us a realistic picture of what might have been said between Anne and Charles throughout their marriage and during Charles’ final days. I was satisfied. Read the book and tell me what you think!
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