Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book 2: The Pilot's Wife

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

As much as I love Amazon, nothing beats walking through an actual bookstore, and looking at the titles there. This is why I always end up looking through the shelves at the PX, despite the fact that I know not to expect much of anything. Sometimes, I get surprised, and they have books I really wanted to read, such as Blindness. Other times, I find titles that I recognize and sound interesting enough, though I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to get them, such as Darkly Dreaming Dexter and The Pilot's Wife. Given a lack of options, I suddenly find myself inspired to buy books I wouldn't normally because they're the best of the bunch.

This isn't necessarily a book I would pass on to other people, but I wouldn't tell them not to read it, either. I think the back cover may have given more away than it should have with its reference to secrets, but then again, that's part of the reason I read it as quickly as I did - I wanted to know the secrets, though at least part of the secret was pretty easy to guess, and probably obvious. Basically, the book was very readable - the prose and the story didn't lag, and there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. I'm not sure how accurate a picture of grief the novel painted, but it seemed realistic enough. I didn't actually need all the twists at the end, and would have been just as happy with a random plane crash as what ended up being the reason behind it. In this way, the novel actually kind of dates itself since it refers to political issues and groups that aren't much of an issue anymore.

On a slightly different note, how many books are out there titled "The . . .'s Husband"? It seems like there a quite few books about "The . . .'s Wife", but I haven't really noticed any in the reverse. The title alone then gives the idea that this woman's life revolved around her husband and that her identity is defined by his. Kathryn met her husband when she was 18, and he was 33, so obviously he was already much more mature and set in his identity than she was. After they marry, she becomes a teacher at the local high school, but it never really seems like she is that passionate about it. Kathryn and her daughter's lives revolve around Jack's flight schedule, adjusting to his presence and absence as necessary. She has her own life and friends in Massachusetts but so much of it is defined by Jack's job. [Spoiler] Of course, one could make the argument that in this case the title is ambiguous and that it is questionable who the real "pilot's wife" is. [end spoiler]

Overall, I didn't feel like it was a waste of time, and even if it's one of those books I'll probably barely remember in a few months, it's also not one I had to force myself through. It was an interesting examination of a marriage, although in many ways, it seemed to me like Kathryn was settling by assuming that most marriages just naturally fade.

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