Summary: A pilot's wife is taught to be prepared for the late-night knock at the door. But when Kathryn Lyons receives word that a plan flown by her husband, Jack, has exploded near the coast of Ireland, she confronts the unfathomable-one startling revelation at a time. Soon drawn into a maelstrom of publicity fueled by rumors that Jack led a secret life, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was, whatever that knowledge might cost. Her search propels this taut, impassioned novel as it movingly explores the question, How well can we ever really know another person?
As I largely read and review YA books, I often find myself impatient to get through an adult novel. Thankfully, reading The Pilot's Wife was easy for me; I love her storytelling and the complicated lives she weaves for her characters. Shreve makes you feel invested in these characters. Kathryn could be anyone's sister, friend or neighbour. She's an ordinary wife who has a seemingly easy and happy marriage until someone knocks on her door and turns her world upside down. I was so absorbed in finding the answers to the mysteries of the plane crash and of Jack's final moments that I had no problems getting through this book.
The drama of the characters (the death of a loved one, a fractured family, adultery, having a secret life, a failing marriage, etc. ) is wrapped around the mysterious plane crash that killed Kathryn's husband and the other passengers on-board. Although this book was originally published in 1998, the horrific tragedy of September 11, 2001 has made plane-related accidents and words like "terrorists" strike hard with readers. The tragedy of that day makes the events of this book more real and therefore the book to be more powerful. I needed to know if this seemingly average and decent man could possibly be a terrorist; a word that is all too real to me.
The Pilot's Wife feels like a chick-lit/contemporary fiction hybrid, which is great for readers like me who don't have a lot of patience to withstand a heavy read. You get the complicated romance angle of chick lit, but it's wrapped up in something dark and grim. Don't look for a love-you-forever, standard happy ending. Shreve likes to write about love in its most complicated forms, usually in that love is never easy, it's never what you expect it to be, and often it means loving the wrong thing.
The narrative is fast-paced and is character-driven. The unknowns surrounding Jack and his final moments keep the reader wondering and wanting throughout the book. Moreover, Shreve addresses ugly [possible] realities like adultery and the loss of a spouse and father; subjects we do enjoy experiencing safely through a good book.
The Pilot's Wife makes for a great weekend read you won't want to put down. Looking for something with a little more shock-factor? Try Fortune's Rocks.