After a pilot dies in the crash of an airliner, his wife discovers he was a bigamist. A face-to-face follows between the legal wife, Kathryn of Boston by whom he had one child, and the other woman, Muire, who lives in England with their two children. By the author of The Weight of Water.
I don't think we, the readers, were supposed to be surprised. I think that the author was trying to show that because of the inherent trustworthiness, and trusting nature of Kathryn, that she was surprised by her husband's ultimate betrayal. Even though there were signs and symptoms of problems in her marriage, Kathryn turned a blind eye to them because she wanted to trust her husband, and because she truly didn't want to know. When forced to face her husband's treachery she had to decide how to go on living, how to grieve, and whether or not in the future she would again allow herself to be deceived.
I loved this book.
Despite this, I enjoyed the journey the author took me on. The writing was easy going and carried my along smoothly. I only wish there was more substance to the story as at end, this is nothing more than another story about a woman coming to grips with her husband’s infidelity. The only interesting twist was applying the steps to accepting the grieving process was applying the same steps to the accepting the infidelity.
This is a work of fiction. As such, the author is allowed certain liberties with reality. I could not accept, however, the pilot’s political alliance as easily as his personal alliance. That was a little too far-fetched for me. If you have no attachments to the plot, this should be a quick read.
I found this a struggle to read – it’s emotionally difficult and I loathe flying, planes and everything to do with them, so to read the story of the aftermath of a crash was harrowing – but enthralling. The characters are strongly rendered, the coastal countryside beautifully represented and the moves back and forth between the immediate aftermath of the crash and the history of the relationships are fluidly managed.
I was disappointed by the twist – I saw it coming a little faster than the wife did, but not quickly – but it seemed such a let-down in a good character. The developments then seemed a bit far-fetched, but certainly riveting and heart-gripping.
All in all, an engrossing read, fascinating characters, slightly disappointing plot (not from lack of suspense, but from lack of justice to the characters).
Spent a wintry Sunday engrossed in The Pilot's Wife and thoroughly enjoyed it. Story line is skillful and suspenseful; and the sense of coastal New Hampshire is lovely. Shreve is a quick, reliable escape read for me, and I appreciate her for that.
I liked the writing style of this book and how well the scenes from the present and the memories work together.
A note on the side: Once flight/airport security was mentioned I checked the book's publication date, because I couldn't believe the book could have been written after 2001.
The characters are as remote as the landscape where the plane that Jack Lyons is piloting crashes - and perhaps that was intentional (if so, that's well-done). I never felt a connection to anyone in the novel, and I expected to - particularly with Mattie, the daughter, as I understand on a personal level what it is like to lose a father suddenly. Kathryn and Mattie's reactions to the loss of Jack, their husband and father, respectively, are devoid of emotions - and the descriptions of what emotions they do feel are empty. In one scene, Kathryn learns a truly devastating secret about her husband; mere hours later, she claims that she "is over the worst of it."
Plot-wise, this storyline is incredibly predictable and indistinguishable from other movies-of-the-week with similar scenarios. Even the revelation in the most climatic scenes is predictable enough.
Shreve's writing in "The Pilot's Wife" is cliche-ridden and trite. The plane crash that claims the life of her husband occurs mere days before Christmas. When asked how her holiday was, the widow Kathryn responds:
"Sad," she said. "Pathetic. Every minute was pathetic. The
worst was how hard Mattie was trying. As if she owed it to Julia and
me. As if she owed it somehow to her father. I wish now we had
canceled the whole thing."
I know the feeling.
Or Kathryn's exchange with her grandmother upon learning of her husband Jack's death:
"I loved him," Kathryn said.
"I know you did. I know you
did. I loved him, too. We all loved him."
"Why did this happen?"
"Forget the why," Julia said. "There is no why. It doesn't
matter. It doesn't help. It's done and can't be undone."
The Pilot's Wife was written a decade ago and the reader is aware of the absence of the Internet as well as that of cell phones. During the past decade, Anita Shreve has gained a following as a very popular writer. Thankfully, her writing seems to have become stronger with time, leaving the reader with less of a feeling of being on autopilot.
Overall, it was a good read. I could easily imagine myself as Kathryn. The characters are very believable, and the grieving process is well-played-out. I wish Mattie's character was a little more well-developed, but it really doesn't hurt the book the way Mattie was written.
This book made me think more deeply about my marriage. I should take nothing for granted.
But I couldn’t help myself. I kept turning the pages at a steady clip. Author Anita Shreve has a way of pulling the reader inside her characters. After a while, I too started to feel grief and suspicion.
The novel opens with an attention-grabber. Kathryn Lyons opens the door in the middle of the night. On her doorstep stands a representative from the airline. He’s got bad news about her husband. Jack, the pilot of a 104-passenger plane, is presumed dead after the jet exploded in mid-air over the coast of Ireland. Kathryn is socked in the gut and so is the reader.
From there, the story spools out in standard Lifetime Movie fashion. We see Kathryn deal bravely with the loss of her husband, trying to make sense of a senseless accident. We agonize as she tries to bridge the communication gap with her rebellious teenager daughter. We gasp as we learn that Jack the pilot may not have been the model husband he was cracked up to be. We sigh as Kathryn’s breast heaves with the first stirrings of attraction for Robert Hart, the airline spokesman who delivered the bad news in the middle of the night and who later becomes her confidant. Shreve handles this last bit with amateur kid gloves—even the guy’s last name telegraphs his purpose, for goodness’ sake!
But it’s in the details where Shreve flies high:
"The images assaulted her. The feeling of Jack’s breath at the top of her spine, as though he were whispering to her bones. The sliding sensation against her mouth when he gave her a quick kiss as he went off to work."
"Carefully—monitoring herself for seismic shifts—she reached down and pulled the top sheet over her. She imagined she could smell Jack in the flannel."
"There were spaces between her thoughts now—dead air, cotton fluff."
Shreve hits every note just right and Kathryn’s voice becomes as poignant and trustworthy as anything you’re likely to read in this genre. For those who like what Shreve’s accomplished here, check out her earlier novel "The Weight of Water," which has a much more original story and an even more compelling set of characters.