Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Review: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

Photo taken from Goodreads

 Book Info

Title:  The Pilot's Wife 

Author:  Anita Shreve
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Language: English
Format:  Mass Market Paperback 
Pages:  320 pages
ISBN-10:  0316788228
ISBN-13:  978-0316788229
Source:  Gift


From Goodreads:

"With five novels to her credit, including the acclaimed The Weight of Water, Anita Shreve now offers a skillfully crafted exploration of the long reach of tragedy in The Pilot's Wife. News of Jack Lyons's fatal crash sends his wife into shock and emotional numbness: "Kathryn wished she could manage a coma. Instead, it seemed that quite the opposite had happened: She felt herself to be inside of a private weather system, one in which she was continuously tossed and buffeted by bits of news and information, sometimes chilled by thoughts of what lay immediately ahead, thawed by the kindness of others ... frequently drenched by memories that seemed to have no regard for circumstance or place, and then subjected to the nearly intolerable heat of reporters, photographers and curious on-lookers. It was a weather system with no logic, she had decided, no pattern, no progression, no form." The situation becomes even more dire when the plane's black box is recovered, pinning responsibility for the crash on Jack. In an attempt to clear his name, Kathryn searches for any and all clues to the hours before the flight. Yet each discovery forces her to realize that she didn't know her husband of 16 years at all. Shreve's complex and highly convincing treatment of Kathryn's dilemma, coupled with intriguing minor characters and an expertly paced plot, makes The Pilot's Wife really take off."


Many married couples would probably say that they know everything there is to know about their spouse - the way an arched brow might be a sign of disapproval, a tick in the cheek a sign of irritation.  But how well do we really know the person we love?  This is the challenge served to the readers in this emotion-packed novel by Anita Shreve.

Kathryn was content - content with her married life with Jack, content with her only daughter Mattie, content with their home in Fortune's Rock and the life she and her family had built there.  But when a man appears on her doorstep to inform her of her husband's death, the carefully-spun life of contentment unravels and she is left with a long thread of doubts, mysteries, and grief.  Reading through this book, one question nagged at my mind:  How do you deal with the truth behind one's person?

This book was so full of deep sorrow that I would almost advise those who are easily depressed to steer clear of this book, but to do so would mean never having the chance to experience the beauty of this poignant novel.  Alternating chapters of Kathryn and her daughter's dealing with their loss with that of Kathryn's life with Jack presented a clear view of the inner struggles that occur in marriages:  the complacency, the insecurity - the faith.  I first thought that this was a book that had some deadly mystery in it surrounding Jack's death, but when I saw those alternating chapters, I suddenly had this feeling that this book is leading me somewhere else.  Imagine my surprise with all the twists this book had taken - I wish I could tell you, but I could only warn you that it's not what you think!

The melancholic, lyrical, and profound writing suited this novel well.  The narration's voice was filled with this deep sense of dread, urgency, and emotion that would surely urge the reader on, letting him/her experience the same surge of feelings that the characters felt as if living within the book itself.  The characters themselves were very interesting, in that they all had something to offer - a story of their own.  I look at Mattie and I see a young woman tormented by the death of her father and she could have her own book in which she could be shown dealing with her loss.  I see Julia - that's Kathryn's grandmother - and I could almost read a whole prequel to this book of her life with a younger Kathryn, with her children, and how she coped with her own losses and struggles and how she enjoyed her triumphs.  I then turn to Robert Hart and I immediately have a sense of his life with his ex-wife, his views of his strange job and his complex personality.  At its heart, this book is Kathryn's story, but the other characters are very well-drawn and lifelike that their own stories emerge through the pages without really meaning to.

But although this is Kathryn's story, this is also a story of understanding that things are not what they seem, that truth itself is relative.  The truth for one person may be only half-true for another, it only depends on how much either of them knows.  That even the person you were most intimate with could be keeping secrets that are beyond your wildest imaginings.  That the world is only real so long as you believe in it.

This may be more of a dramatic fiction, but it probably serves up one of the best mystery plots ever written.  And I do believe having you told you that, you do not need any more convincing to read this book.


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way. 
Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions.  


  1. I read this so long ago - I remember liking it, but your review made me want to read it again. Thanks!

  2. Excellent review Nina! I don't really go for modern fiction books that often, but you make it sound so good.

    Great job!


  3. Thank you so much for your comments. It's definitely a must-read!

  4. I'm adding this book up in my wishlist. Thanks for the great review!

  5. An enjoyable read The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.


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