Monday, February 22, 2016

From My Shelf - Flight Of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

Today I'm sharing with you Flight Of Dreams, the second novel by She Reads.org co-founder Ariel Lawhon, my first 5 star read of 2016!

Genre: (Historical) Fiction
Synopsis from the publisher, Doubleday, 2016 Advance Reading Copy Not For Sale paperback edition, 324 pages: 

"With everyone on board the Hindenberg harboring dark secrets, Flight of Dreams is an utterly suspenseful, heart-wrenching examination of one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century.

On the evening of May 3, 1937, Emilie Imhoff boards the Hindenberg. As the only female crew member, Emilie has access to the entire airship, from the lavish dining rooms and passenger suites to the gritty engine cars and control room. She hears everything, including rumors circulating about bomb threats, but Emilie is more focused on her feeling for Max, the ship's navigator... and keeping her own plans under wraps.

What Emilie can't see is that everyone - from the sweet cabin boy to the high-standing German officer - seems to be hiding something. Even her budding romance with Max is about to be complicated by subterfuge and betrayal.

From a dazzling new voice in historical fiction, Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the people on board. It is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing until the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after you've finished reading."

I finished Flight Of Dreams on Friday afternoon, and whopping head cold aside, I needed to collect myself before I could sit down to write this review. This morning I re-read the last 51 pages, because apparently what a whopping head cold needs is another good cry!

In short: I loved Flight of Dreams.

I can hear some of you already asking, "How can you love a book when you already know the ending?"

I studied World War II history extensively in college because it has always struck something inside of me, even before reading The Diary of Anne Frank in grammar school and Night by Ellie Wiesel as a freshman in high school. I've watched countless documentaries on television. But, in recent years, historical fiction has transported me to this time period in ways the history books and films never could, on levels more personal, intimate, shocking, ultimately horrifying. (And in many cases I'm learning things I had not learned from those long ago text books and classes because I've gone on to researching a bit after I've finished reading).

I'm also a born and raised NJean, and we're taught about the Hindenberg in grammar school. (Or at least it used to be taught to young students, if they teach it now or not, I can't say for certain). I've seen the footage of its' fiery demise many times, and to this day wonder how anyone survived. My husband told me that his grandfather took my mother-in-law to see the wreckage down in Lakehurst when she was a little girl (of 5 or 7 years old, depending on what year you believe she was born), and that he bought her "an actual piece of the Hindenberg" which she said she had for years, though whether or not it actually a piece of the airship, she never knew. (Apparently they selling "pieces of the Hindenberg" everywhere - the morbid idea of which is unsettling to me). I also vaguely remember the GC Scott movie of the same name, made the year I was born.

So, yes, I am familiar with the Hindenberg, and I knew the inevitability Flight Of Dreams would come to on May 6, 1937. But, how would author Ariel Lawhon get to that tragic end? How would The Stewardess, The Navigator, The American, The Journalist and The Cabin Boy spend their three days aboard the airship prior to the crash? Who, along with the other passengers and crew, would be among the survivors? How would she leave them, and where? And the biggest question of all: What would cause the Hindenberg to crash?

Ariel's writing was transportive from page one, and put me inside the Hindenberg with its' precious cargo, some of whom are based on actual passengers from the doomed flight. The further along I read, the more I wanted to know how she would connect all of the dots, but at the same time, I was bracing myself for what I knew would be an emotionally vivid conclusion, regardless of that partial inevitability. I only put it down during the times I've been too ill to read.

While we may never truly know the real reason, or reasons, behind the cause of the Hindenberg crash, this novel does an amazing job of exploring a combination of possible "what if" scenarios. Her words give color to an event I've only seen in dark shades of grainy black and white. A beautiful page-turner.

Flight Of Dreams releases on Tuesday, February 23, 2016.

Links for reference:

Author Ariel Lawhon's Twitter: Click here.
Author Ariel Lawhon's Facebook: Click here.
(Publisher links above with initial book title reference at beginning of post, as well as the author's website with initial name reference at the beginning of post).

Ariel is also the author of The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress, her first novel.

I want to thank Doubleday for providing me with a free copy of Flight Of Dreams as a member of the She Reads Blog Network for review. (Opinions are my own, and I am not required by the publisher or She Reads to write a positive review, nor have I received compensation for this review).

Please note: Off The Shelf is now From My Shelf.

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