The Pilot's Wife is a 1998 novel by Anita Shreve. This isn't the type of book I'd normally be drawn to, as the cover makes it look like a serious, sappy look into marriage. But, I was intrigued by the fact that it was selected for Oprah's Book Club, and I know better than to judge a book by its cover, so I gave it a try.
The book is about Kathryn, a wife and mother whose world is rocked at the start of the novel when she learns that her pilot husband has died in a plane crash along with all his passengers. From the beginning, it is both a love story and a mystery.
I'm starting to long for a novel that just goes in chronological order. While The Pilot's Wife doesn't technically start in the middle and jump backwards, it is packed with flashbacks and memories that take the reader through the romance of Kathryn and her husband Jack, from when they met until the day before he left for his final flight.
It's a fast read in part because so much of the story is far from unique: the once-hot romance turned boring, the distant teenage daughter who wants to stay in bed all day, the beachside estate with a dark and stormy ocean as a symbol of loneliness and mystery. That said, the writing is engaging and it's easy to get involved in the story and very interested in Kathryn's point of view and her perspective on the relationships around her.
What I enjoyed most, however, was the mystery aspect of the book. We learn of Jack's death when a union officer arrives late at night and knocks on the door to notify Kathryn. This is the beginning of his presence in the book as a calming but questioning friend, and of Kathryn's quest to find out what really happened, as she's initially sure her husband can't have been at fault for the crash. While the house is constantly surrounded by reporters and news shows on the TV all day, she tries to protect her daughter and make sense of what may have happened.
The Pilot's Wife builds the mystery slowly and focuses on Kathryn's perspective on her husband. As she begins to notice tiny things that tell her about parts of her life that were unknown to her, she begins to dig further. But for me, this is where the appeal of the book fell apart, because after chapter upon chapter of slowly finding little almost-non-existent clues, everything is revealed so quickly that it feels improbable and left me feeling somewhat disappointed. I closed the book wondering at first if maybe my copy was missing the last few chapters. I didn't actually feel that the beginning was slow, but that could be my love for dramatic irony, which a lot of readers find frustrating. But I did feel that the end was too abrupt to be a true, appropriate finish for the story that had been building - it didn't feel realistic to me.
Overall, I liked The Pilot's Wife and I'd suggest it as an easy but well-written read if you're feeling reflective.