Book Review: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Charles Lindbergh is a thing of legend. In 1927, the then 25-year-old U.S. Mail pilot became an instant sensation after he completed the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight in a single-engine airplane. That’s what most of us know Lindbergh for today.

Immediately following his flight, Lindbergh realized that he had become an instant hero one of the most famous people in the world, and as such, he would need a suitable wife.

That’s where Anne Morrow comes in.

Anne-Morrow-LindberghAnne Morrow Lindbergh is the subject of Melanie Benjamin’s 2013 book, titled The Aviator’s Wife. Morrow, the daughter of a U.S. ambassador, quickly develops feeling for Lindbergh, and before long, the couple marry and become co-pilots — both in life and in the air.

Benjamin uses this as a jumping-off point for her story, and the historical fiction book, told entirely through the eyes of Morrow, is both fascinating and heartbreaking. Together, the Lindbergh’s experience more triumph and adventure than most people experience in a lifetime, but with celebrity and adventure also comes heartbreak. Nowhere is that more poignant than in Morrow’s story.

Today, if you ask a friend about the Lindbergh family, you’re likely to get a variety of answers, ranging from “Oh, yeah! He was a pilot!” to “Isn’t the airport/school/freeway (etc.) named after him?” Ask friends and family of an older generation though, and you’ll likely get different answers. My parents, for example, remember the Lindberghs both for their accomplishments in the air, and because of the heartbreak brought about by the kidnapping of their oldest son, Charlie, Jr.

Get to Know Anne Morrow Lindbergh with The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife: A NovelThe Aviator’s Wife: A NovelWho was The Aviator’s Wife?

As Charles Lindbergh’s wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh had the opportunity to do things and go places most of us can only dream about.

Anne was more than just the wife of the famous pilot, however. She was the daughter of a noted politician and later in life became a best-selling author. More than sixty years after it was published, her Gift from the Sea is still a popular inspirational book today.

Both The Aviator’s Wife and Gift from the Sea are books worth reading. Read them together for a deeper understanding of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s life!

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The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin – Emotional and Engaging

For mothers and wives, The Aviator’s Wife will be a highly-emotional and, at times difficult, read throughout the entire 448-page book. For the majority of the book, Morrow struggles with her identity in relation to herself and in relation to her husband. She wonders if she’ll ever realize her own dreams, or if she’ll forever be known as Mrs. Charles Lindbergh. In addition, she vacillates between feeling as if her husband is totally in love with her and feeling as if he doesn’t know she exists. There’s a lot of emotional material here, and it’s definitely worth the read.

Nowhere is the emotion more evident than when Benjamin tells the story of Morrow’s missing son. As the days drag into weeks and the weeks drag into months, Benjamin does a great job of catching the feeling and the emotions Morrow may have experienced as she warred with her husband about the best way to go about finding Charlie, Jr.

Anne Lindbergh and son Charles Jr, mother, and grandmother cph.3b19303uLindbergh was a notorious planner and saw everything as a challenge, and finding his son was his biggest challenge. Throughout much of the search, Morrow struggled with the way her husband handled the entire tragedy, and watching her struggle to balance loyalty to her husband with the intense pain of missing a child was, as a mother myself, especially emotional to read.

As the book continues, Benjamin shows repeatedly how Morrow deals with similar struggles into old age. Morrow never forgets about her missing son, and it isn’t until Lindbergh’s dying days that she realizes just how much the loss of his son has affected her husband, as well. It really hit home when that realization was revealed, and Benjamin did a good job of bringing a lot of emotion to that scene.

While the kidnapping overshadows much of the book, it can’t be said that the entire story is upsetting. In fact, the majority of the book focuses on other aspects of the Lindberghs’ lives. Only a few chapters are devoted to the tragedy faced by the family.

Together Lindbergh and Morrow see much of the world and do a huge number of extraordinary things. They go on to build a life together and have five more children, and in their roles as public figures, become authors and even somewhat political.

It must be said that The Aviator’s Wife is historical fiction rather than a biography, but even so, Benjamin does an awesome job of letting the reader glimpse into the lives of the Lindbergh family from a totally unique angle. She reveals so much more than what is written in a basic history book, and she’s definitely encouraged me to look further into the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Perhaps you will, as well.

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