I have an extreme fascination with aviation and a deep love for being in the air. There is something about looking through a window and seeing soft white puffs of water vapor at eye level- It feels so unnatural, irregular. All senses intensify as gravity is defied; For me, I find myself in the clouds.
When my husband gifted me “The Flight Girls,” by Noelle Salazar, I was excited to float away and immerse myself in this particular pastime. Appropriately, I started this read on a plane ride from Virginia to Los Angeles and finished the last chapter as my aircraft extended its wheels for landing.
The backdrop of the novel is World War II: The United States was not yet involved in the fight at the book’s onset but takes the reader through a timeline of increasing fear, unyielding patriotism, and a shift of all that is known in regard to 1941 social norms.
The main character, Audrey, always dreamed of owning the local airfield that she grew up flying on. Her father’s hobby became a career aspiration for her, and she was intensely focused on realizing that goal. Audrey didn’t date and wasn’t interested in the typical female ambitions of the time: Finishing school and marrying, having children, becoming a housewife. She wanted nothing more than to hone in on her skills and secure her plot of land to cultivate and expand.
With the rise of the war, Audrey raised her hand to serve, first training young recruits at a base in Hawaii and then ferrying planes across the country in an elite government program. The story tracks Audrey’s experiences and encounters along the way, interweaves historical overarching themes of perseverance, pride, fear and loss with her personal account.
The book was an effortless read: I fell in love with the main character and her resilience, her charm, her unwavering commitment to her dreams. The love story that unfolded in the book was well- written: sweet and pure, strong and indestructible. Salazar did an excellent job crafting the intimacy and complexity of relationships- I was surprised to read that this was her first published piece.
I will say that if you are looking for an intricate work of historical fiction, this book is a little light. The book paints a picture of life snapshots, actions and reactions to the war, rather than presenting factual background for the war itself. The author does mention in the book that she does skim and swerve over official details, saying:
“There are moments the timeline may veer a little, and I own that. But my job is to paint a picture and my goal in telling this story isn’t to drown the reader in facts. It is not to impress with fancy words or my knowledge of flying ( I am not a pilot and won’t try to write as if I know how to fly a plane. I’m actually a bit afraid of flying!) What I did set out to do is entertain you. To give you a bit of history. And to hopefully make you fall in love. With a time period. With a young woman trying to find her way in a changing world.”
– Noelle Salazar, The Flight Girls
A truly wonderful read, I salute to you, Noelle. Mission accomplished.
Final Score: 4 This was a beautifully written story, full of heart and infused with so much strength. I appreciated viewing the time period through Audrey’s eyes; a bird’s eye view of the world at war, overall perceptions of women in the workforce, fulfilling “male duties,” and the trials and tribulations associated with relationships severed by distance and some cases, even death. Salazar nailed the snapshot.
BEST FOR: In-flight entertainment!
NOT GOOD FOR: Those looking for a truly accurate, historical portrayal. As someone who has a genuine passion for aviation and fascination with wartime details, I would have loved a little more depth in terms of WWII factual data or plane specifics, but I equally adored the character storyline so I wasn’t left underwhelmed when I finished the book. For some, it may be a little too undeveloped though, if looking for more than a quick read.
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: The dream chaser.
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