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Oprah's Book Club September 17, 2010
   
The Pilot's Wife
by Anita Shreve

Overview - Until now, Kathryn Lyons's life has been peaceful if unextraordinary: a satisfying job teaching high school in the New England mill town of her childhood; a picture-perfect home by the ocean; a precocious, independent-minded fifteen-year-old daughter; and a happy marriage whose occasional dull passages she attributes to the unavoidable deadening of time.  Read more...

 
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More About The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
 
 
 
Overview
Until now, Kathryn Lyons's life has been peaceful if unextraordinary: a satisfying job teaching high school in the New England mill town of her childhood; a picture-perfect home by the ocean; a precocious, independent-minded fifteen-year-old daughter; and a happy marriage whose occasional dull passages she attributes to the unavoidable deadening of time. As a pilot's wife, Kathryn has learned to expect both intense exhilaration and long periods alone - but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock that lets her know her husband has died in a crash. As Kathryn struggles with her grief, she descends into a maelstrom of publicity stirred up by the modern hunger for the details of tragedy. Even before the plane is located in waters off the Irish coast, the relentless scrutiny of her husband's life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret life?


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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780316789080
  • ISBN-10: 0316789089
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Publish Date: May 1998
  • Page Count: 304

Series: Oprah's Book Club

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > General

 
BookPage Reviews

Reading Anita Shreve's novel, The Pilot's Wife, is like unraveling a

thread. From the moment Kathryn Lyons answers the late-night knock at her

door, she and the reader are set upon a course that eventually reveals that

the life Kathryn thought was one way was really another.

Kathryn is married to Jack, a pilot on the Boston-London run. They

have a 15-year old daughter, Mattie, and a charming old house in a small

New England beach town. It's a normal-enough life. They have a

normal-enough marriage: Kathryn and Jack were once passionately in love, and now, years later, they have grown comfortable and separate.

When Kathryn answers that late-night knock, she is told that Jack's

plane exploded off the coast of Ireland. Adding to her horror are airline investigators, pilots union investigators, and TV crews - all looking for Kathryn to reveal something about Jack that will lead them to the source of the explosion. Each day, it seems, the news generates new bits of information and rumors. Each day there is a new wrinkle in what might have been a simple, tragic story: Take a family of three and subtract one.

At first, Kathryn can't believe that the explosion was anything other than an accident. She knows Jack, after all, and she knows that he wasn't involved in any political causes. He enjoyed hockey and playing on his computer, and being with his wife and daughter. But, in the slow and horrible way that the truth often reveals itself, bits and pieces of Jack's life surface that don't fit with Kathryn's picture of him. Found in Jack's pants pocket is an envelope with an initial marked on it (not a "K"). There's a receipt for a silken bathrobe that never arrives at Kathryn's house. And Jack, she later learns, did not spend his last night at the crew apartment in London.

The novel is essentially a mystery, with Kathryn playing the unwilling sleuth who must follow her husband's trail backwards - all the way to Ireland. When she hires a boatman to take her to the crash site, Kathryn circles the wreckage and says, "To be relieved of love . . . was to give up a terrible burden."

Because Kathryn is so distraught and grief-stricken, she doesn't add up the clues as fast as the reader, making the book a little slow at times. However, when Kathryn essentially solves the mystery of Jack, she realizes that she never knew him, and she never will. Her search leads her not only to some answers, but to a realization - that the possibility is slim of ever fully knowing those we love, even those we love the most.

Reviewed by Laura Wexler.

 
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