Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

An accomplished aviator, writer, and mother, Anne Lindbergh is forever remembered as the wife of the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh.  The lives of the Lindberghs are dramatic in nature.  Anne is a young college girl that travels to Mexico during Christmas break as her father is the new ambassador to Mexico.  Also visiting the embassy is Charles Lindbergh not too long after his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  Both quiet in nature, the two connect and Anne is stunned to realize that Charles has picked her over her more beautiful and outgoing older sister.  She loves to fly as well as Charles and he realizes that she will make an excellent co-pilot and crew and is also level headed.  Anne knows that Charles is famous, but is overwhelmed by the constant scrutiny and lack of privacy that the wife of Charles Lindbergh engenders.

As time goes on, Anne starts to feel that her entire life is controlled by Charles and the media, especially after the events of the “trial of the century.”  As she gets older, Anne sheds this mentality and finds herself. She writes her books and also raises her five children basically on her own.  She discovers her own self-worth as well as love.  She tries to discover the enigma that is her husband; will she ever know the mystery that is Charles Lindbergh?

I was sent this book by Eydie, the leader of the Milwaukee book club I was a member of before moving to Kewaunee 10.5 years ago.  I knew it would be good since Eydie liked it, so I picked it for the June pick of the FLICKS Book and Movie Club (aka Rogue).  It did provide much discussion at our meeting.  The discussion centered on not only the amazing events of the Lindbergh’s lives, but also focused on Anne.  What it must have felt like to put all in as a wife and mother only to discover ultimate betrayal by her husband.  What the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby would have been like. How Anne may have seen herself as just the aviator’s wife, but that she was much more.  We all learned a lot about Anne that we never knew before and her many accomplishments.  We discussed the stoicism of Charles Lindbergh and what it was like for past generations of men and women.  Plus, did Charles Lindbergh really live with all three of his mistresses in Germany like I read online?  How the heck would that work?

My favorite quotes from this novel:

“And I understand that betrayal is more enormous than forgiveness.  One more thing Charles has taught me, in a lifetime of lessons and lectures.”

“Charles was the wind that blew me hither and yon, that lifted me off this earth, kept me aloft, pulled me along like a helpless kite, but also gave me wings with which I could touch the sun.”

“But before that, I had been a pilot.  An adventurer.  I had broken records – but I had forgotten about them.  I had steered aircraft – but I didn’t think I would know how to, anymore.  I had soared across the sky, every bit as daring as Lucky Lindy himself, the one person in the world who could keep up with him.

Yet motherhood had brought me down to earth with a thud and kept me there with tentacles made of diapers and tears and lullabies and phone calls and car pools and the sticky residue of hair spray and Barbasol all over the bathroom counter.  Would I ever be able to soar again?  Would I ever have the courage?

Did any woman?”

“I was Mom.  I was Wife.  I was Tragedy.  I was Pilot.  They all were me, and I, them.  That was a fate we could not escape, we women; we would always be called upon by others in a way men simply never were.  But weren’t we always, first and foremost – woman?  Wasn’t there strength in that, victory, clarity – in all of the stages of a woman’s life?”

I loved the author’s note at the end of the novel were she said that “It’s the emotional truths that I imagine” and the rest of the novel is history.

Overall, The Aviator’s Wife was a great look into the life of the often underestimated Anne Morrow Lindbergh and into the fraught marriage of the Lindberghs.  It was filled with high drama.  It was a good historical fiction novel and a great book to discuss at book club.

Book Source:  Copy given to me by my old Milwaukee Book Club Pal, Eydie.  I will be passing it along now!


  1. Laura, this does sound like a good book about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her struggles as a woman and writer. Gift from the Sea is a beautiful book.

  2. I'm glad you liked it. I think Gift from the Sea should maybe be a future book club pick - I would love to read it!