Friday, April 1, 2016
Book Review: Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Luckily for all of us, Ariel Lawhon figured this out. She takes the real names, jobs, and outcomes of a dozen or so staff and passengers on The Hindenburg and takes readers on a journey from boarding through the crash. Meanwhile she crafts fully three-dimensional backstories and interior lives for these few souls. She stays true to what actually happened and they live or die based on whether they really lived or died at the end. But fortuitously, we still don't know what caused the explosion, so she's free to imagine a scenario that causes the fatal spark. We follow Emelie, the very first female staff member of the Zeppelin company, a stewardess (no, I am not changing that to flight attendant as that was the term at the time), Werner, the cabin boy, and Max the navigator. On the passengers' side, we follow Gertrude, a journalist, and a shifty, unnamed American. The trip takes three days, but lifetimes are lived in that brief moment. Loves are lost and won, Lives are nearly lost and saved, crucial things are stolen, an acrobat swings from the rafters, and a starving dog is saved. These people truly come alive under Ms. Lawhon's deft hand, and it's a tribute to them that she makes the readers care for these doomed souls. Yes, I know many survive, but their souls are still scarred for life after this event.
I'm always impressed when a writer can take an event with a foregone conclusion and create suspense anyway (although I never looked up to see who died so that was real wonder for me.) My heart was in my throat through the last 50 pages, as the doomed ship came ever closed to her final minutes. This book is an impressive feat of historical fiction.
I got a free ARC from the publisher at SIBA.