I absolutely love World War II novels, and that's what drew me to The Secrets of Flight. In actuality, only about half of the novel is set during the war, but the story is so captivating that I didn't even care!
Estranged from her family since just after World War II, Mary Browning has spent her entire adult life hiding from her past. Now eighty-seven years old and a widow, she is still haunted by secrets and fading memories of the family she left behind. Her one outlet is the writing group she’s presided over for a decade, though she’s never written a word herself. When a new member walks in—a fifteen-year-old girl who reminds her so much of her beloved sister Sarah—Mary is certain fate delivered Elyse Strickler to her for a reason.
Mary hires the serious-eyed teenager to type her story about a daring female pilot who, during World War II, left home for the sky and gambled everything for her dreams—including her own identity.
As they begin to unravel the web of Mary’s past, Mary and Elyse form an unlikely friendship. Together they discover it’s never too late for second chances and that sometimes forgiveness is all it takes for life to take flight in the most unexpected ways.
Told in alternating viewpoints and set in both the present and the past, The Secrets of Flight is a captivating novel from beginning to end. The narrative switches between the perspectives of Mary, an octogenarian whose only real human contact is through the writers' group she runs at the local library, and Elyse, a young girl who joins the group because she is desperate to become a writer. Mary is immediately drawn to Elyse, as Elyse reminds Mary of her sister Sarah, who died young. When Mary hires Elyse to type her memoir, secrets Mary intended to take to her grave slowly come to light, and both women find their lives irrevocably changed.
I found myself completely drawn into the world of The Secrets of Flight—both the part set in the present and the part set in World War II, which is essentially Mary's memoir. As Mary told her story, I was able to guess where it was going and how Mary and Elyse would become connected, but author Maggie Leffler wrote it in such a way that I didn't even care that I'd guessed the "big" secret—I just wholly enjoyed the journey. The Secrets of Flight is a beautiful book, and I highly recommend it! 4-1/2 stars.
Content note: The Secrets of Flight does contain a fair amount of swearing (which didn't bother me much, but I felt I should alert you), as well as one fairly graphic almost sex scene (which did bother me). Modern Mrs. Darcy talks about the 8-line edit, and I wish it could have been employed here. Though the "almost sex" served a purpose in the story, I wish it hadn't been quite so graphic ... or even in the novel at all. If you do choose to read this book, please don't be mad at me for recommending it, as I am giving you fair warning as to the content!
Buy the book.
Maggie Leffler is an American novelist and a family medicine physician. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from University of Delaware and volunteered with Americorps before attending St. George's University School of Medicine. She practices medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and sons.
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