Mary Browning is in her eighties. She runs a writing group at the local library but aside from one published book long out of print, she never contributes writing for critique, holding herself at arms length from the rest of the seniors in the group. But she is starting to think about writing a memoir about her long hidden past including her time as a WASP during WWII after seeing a picture in the newspaper of her much younger self with two of her fellow fly girls. Then fifteen year old Elyse walks into the writer's group. Something about the teenager reminds Mary of her sister Sarah and she decides that perhaps she could pay this young girl to type up the memoir for her. She's finally ready to start telling her story.
Elyse is writing a novel of her own and despite the fact that the writing group is entirely made up of senior citizens, she decides to keep coming and eventually agrees to Mary's typing proposition. Elyse's life is complicated by not only usual teenaged angst, her interest in a popular boy, and a falling out with her best friend, but also by the fact that her parents might very well be getting divorced and her grandmother, who she hasn't seen in years, is very sick. Her growing friendship with Mary helps to give her a bit of stability and caring at an otherwise unhappy point in her life.
The novel moves back and forth between Mary and Elyse's present day and Mary's past. Mary records chapters of her memoir for Elyse, slowly revealing the fascinating truth of her drive to become a pilot, to fly as a WASP, and why she is so alone now in her final years. The one thing she does not reveal though, is the name she shed so many years ago, Miriam (Miri) Lichtenstein, holding that last secret close to her heart. Mary is an active, tough character, full of life but she is clearly alone. Elyse is a typical teenager in many ways, trying to find out who she is, what value she has, and what gifts she can share with the world. The two of them need each other.
The tale of Mary's past is a fascinating one although it only skims the surface of the now often overlooked WASP program that gave women vital roles in aviation freeing up male pilots to be sent overseas to fight. Leffler has done a great deal of research into the WASPs (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) and into the discrimination of the time against both Jews and women to make this historically accurate. The premise is both interesting and warm-hearted in its execution although it is peppered with the occasional sad pieces that also form a life. The twist at the end was too pat and unbelievable and as a reader, I winced when I realized where the author was going with it. But aside from this, the novel was an easy, quick read that should appeal to fans of historical fiction, those who want to know something about the WASPs, and those who are looking for a tender tale of chasing dreams.
web page or like her on Facebook. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.