Good ol’ summertime — time to lie in the hammock, engrossed in a book filled with so much adventure, mystery, romance and heartbreak that you soon forget the world around you. Melanie Benjamin’s “The Aviator’s Wife” is sure to do the trick.
As the saying goes, truth can be stranger than fiction, and so is the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her hero husband, Lucky Lindy. Many biographies have been written about the couple, but Benjamin takes a fictional approach by telling the story through the eyes of Anne. This method is effective in revealing the powerful psychological grip that Lindbergh had on his wife and her eventual strength to break free of his grasp.
“The Aviator’s Wife” begins like a fairy tale. Anne Morrow, the shy, mousey daughter in comparison to her attractive older sister, is all but swept away when her handsome prince, Charles Lindbergh, asks her to marry him. Lindbergh has just celebrated his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic and is looked upon by most people as a god.
Benjamin brilliantly captures Anne’s sophomoric enchantment with Lindy and her complete faith in his godlike abilities. Her entire life becomes consumed with a desire to please her husband, as she learns how to fly and travels with him to foreign and dangerous countries with unwavering trust — all the while leaving her five children behind. In one scene, Lindbergh realizes that their plane is missing a landing wheel and they will have to make a crash landing: “I was calm. So was he. The air inside the plane suddenly felt heavy, pressing me into my seat, and our voices sounded deadened to my ears. Still, I was not afraid. I trusted Charles Lindbergh, the man who had conquered the sky, to bring me back safely to earth.” The airplane flips over on landing, but they both survive; the incident only reinforces Anne’s belief in her husband’s godlike qualities.
As the years continue, the Lindberghs try to lead private lives, even though Lucky Lindy’s fame catapults him to a stature in which they are persecuted by the press and fans. (You think paparazzi are bad today — the press even took photos of their dead child’s remains!) It is this unwanted attention that ultimately leads to the abduction of their son from his bedroom window. And yet, still, Anne’s undaunted faith in her husband — especially her belief that he alone could bring her child back by giving into the ransom demands of the kidnappers — gives her hope. It comes as a crushing blow when their child’s remains are discovered and Anne realizes that her husband is fallible.
Charles refuses to talk about their child and tells her to forget about him. “But as time went on, and even with my sextant I still couldn’t locate his grief, I knew this would poison me against him. It would poison us — the Lucky Lindberghs, the First Couple of the Air.” From this point on, Benjamin portrays a changed Anne, who begins to lose faith in her husband and ultimately finds a way to make a life for herself outside of his shadow. Anne Morrow Lindbergh became the first American woman to earn a first-class glider pilot’s license and also went on to publish an extremely popular bestselling book, “Gift from the Sea.”
Visit your local Summit County library for this treasure, as well as many other wonderful summertime reads.