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HER LAST FLIGHT by Beatriz Williams


by Beatriz Williams

Pub Date: June 30th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-06-283478-2
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

What if Amelia Earhart had not only survived her last flight, but found true romance?

The book opens in 1947 with the story of Janey Everett, a war correspondent whose first-person frame narrative alternates with excerpts from her book, Aviatrix, about celebrity airwoman Irene Foster and her flight coach and eventual lover, stunt pilot Sam Mallory. Williams’ otherwise imaginative novel front-loads a lot of exposition, particularly about Janey’s past—the many reasons she’s in denial about the extent of her own vulnerability as she uses men to get information, first about the location of Mallory’s remains and later about the whereabouts of Irene, who now, a decade after her plane went missing in 1937, lives in obscurity in Hawaii. Janey's chronicle of star-crossed lovers Irene and Sam unfolds in similarly creaky fashion. They meet while surfing on a California beach. A stray kitten is in the mix, adopted by Sam. The cat, dubbed Sandy, serves as motif and talisman. After Sam teaches Irene to fly, Sandy stows away on their groundbreaking flight from California to Australia. Nineteen years later Janey discovers that Sandy, living with Irene, has defied all conventions of feline longevity. Although the book is expressly not intended as biographical fiction, many aspects of Earhart’s life are here, among them an alcoholic father and a New York publisher who acts as her promoter (based on George Putnam, but here, in a sly nod to Williams’ own publisher, surnamed Morrow). The action is significantly slowed by technical details about surfing and flying that are sometimes engrossing but often gratuitous. Only halfway through does tension ramp up as Irene and Sam contemplate a future together and confront a giant impediment: Sam’s wife, who wouldn’t hesitate to use his young daughter as a pawn. Plenty of twists ensue, but by now readers may have lost patience. Williams has a fine ear for period-appropriate dialogue, leading us to wonder why there isn’t more of it.

An inventive if imperfect solution to a decades-old mystery.