We’re starting our giveaway for the Amazing Books Giveaway Hop a day early. The book we’ve chosen seems appropriate for Mother’s Day – The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler. It continues our historical fiction theme for the week, yet it also has a contemporary element as you’ll see in the video clip below. It’s a story about family, love, dedication and persistence, and choices made that change people’s lives and the lives of those around them. It’s also about how World War II changed lives in the U.S., even though the U.S. was never invaded…and how those changes rippled across the decades.
The Secrets of Flight is told from two perspectives: that of someone who lived through WWII and chose to follow her dream – and – that of a teenager who is still trying to figure out life and is determined to follow her dream. I found it fascinating and hope you will too – and one of you is going to win a copy in our giveaway!
Mary Browning is an established author in her eightieth decade of life, and yet she feels like a fraud. For almost her entire adult life, she has been in hiding and no one around her really knows who she is or that she’s not of the religious faith she professes. Mary made a fateful decision in World War II to follow her dream of flying and that meant leaving her family behind her. When she met the man of her dreams, she also left her religion behind her.
Both things, in addition to promises broken, have haunted her for her entire life because they don’t fit her picture of who she is underneath it all. Even her name is not her real name. If she had known how isolated she would become because of the decisions she made, and the price she would pay, would she still have made those decisions? If she came clean about who she is now, wouldn’t it be too late?
Fifteen-year-old Elyse Strickler is much closer to the beginning of her life but she also has a passionate dream, the dream of becoming a writer just like Mary Browning. No one seems to understand Elyse’s dream or to take her seriously, yet she’s determined to fulfill her dream. To that end, she decides to join a writer’s group at the local library. Her hope is that she will find people just like her – people who live to write and are working toward their dream of becoming a published writer. What she hasn’t counted on is that the group is comprised of old people. Still she’s desperate and the group is run by Mary, a professional author, so maybe it will work out.
As for Mary, her real name is Miriam “Miri” Lichtenstein, but it’s a name she left long ago – even though it still haunts her. When Mary meets Elyse, she feels an instant connection and is convinced Elyse was sent to her for a reason. Mary has long wanted to write a memoir disguised as a novel and Elyse seems like just the gift she needs to get to work on it before it’s too late. So she offers Elyse a summer job typing up notes for the new book – an offer Elyse can’t resist.
As Mary dictates her story and Elyse transcribes those notes, Elyse becomes fascinated by characters who lived when her own grandmother was just a girl. When Elyse spies a picture at Mary’s home of three young WASPS in uniform, she begins to wonder if this is more than a novel.
What she doesn’t know is that Mary recently read that she and the surviving members of her WASP squadron are finally going to be given a Congressional award to acknowledge the role they played in WWII. It’s made Mary wonder if she should come out of hiding after all these years. What would the consequences be? Will she then feel like a fraud twice over? She’s convinced no one will understand why she did it when even she feels such guilt at the betrayals involved. She definitely doesn’t deserve a Congressional honor. How can she ever be forgiven for what she’s done?
Mary/Miriam was just as strong, opinionated, and persistent as Elyse is when she was young…and those qualities are part of what drew Mary to Elyse. I liked both young women, and the older Mary, immediately. Mary/Miriam made heart-wrenching decisions to follow her dream without realizing their far reaching consequences. None of us ever seem to have a crystal ball handy when we have to make life altering decisions, yet Mary somehow believes she should have been able to predict the future. She’s spent a lifetime punishing herself, often without even realizing it. She gives up even more of herself for the sake of the man she falls in love with – a good man by the way and not a villain by any means. And that piece that she gives up, her Jewish heritage, exacts a price that goes far beyond where she worships every week. Now this may all sound really heart-wrenching, yet so much of Mary/Miriam’s story is joyful and wonderful even though in her 80’s she seems filled with regrets. A real dichotomy…
Maggie Leffler has done a wonderful job in The Secrets of Flight of portraying what it was like to be a woman who loved flight more than anything and wanted to contribute to the U.S. war effort. She hasn’t pulled any punches about the condescending way women were treated, even the best women pilots of the day, or the hardships they endured. She has also written a touching novel about friendship between two very different generations, about how similar different generations are underneath the surface, and how we can all learn from each other no matter our age differences.
I was swept up into The Secrets of Flight and read spellbound the whole way through. I once worked with a woman who had been part of a WASP squadron in WWII and she had some amazing stories to tell. I was in my mid-20’s and I was outraged that they were treated with so little respect both during and after the war. She always just shrugged when I brought it up and said, “We knew what we’d done. We’d didn’t need a pat on the head for doing it, and that’s all it would have been, a pat on the head.”
In many ways, The Secrets of Flight contains two coming-of-age stories – stories that are in many ways more alike than they are different despite how far apart they occurred. I believe this novel is going to be one all ages will appreciate because some things are universal no matter your age. I hope you like this novel as much as I did – I loved it!
Click here to learn more about the role WASPs (Women Air-Force Service Pilots) played in WWII.
Upcoming Author Events & Book Signings:
May 6, 2016 at 7pm at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA
May 14, 2016 at 3pm at Barnes & Noble in Long Gate Shopping Center in Ellicott City, MD
June 3, 2016 at 6:30pm at A Likely Story Bookstore in Sykesville, MD
Can’t wait to read it? The Secrets of Flight is available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller. Click on the link below to get it to read immediately!
I’d love to get your comments on The Secrets of Flight, Maggie Leffler and/or her other work, and/or this review!
One lucky reader will win an ARC (advance review copy) of The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler!
1) The deadline for entries is Thursday night, 5/19/2016, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) Please note: You must be at least 15 years old to enter this particular giveaway.
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6) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you. Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
7) That’s it – this is an easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
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