Flagg highlights a little-known group in U.S. history and generations of families in an appealing story about two women who gather their courage, spread their wings and learn, each in her own way, to fly (I Still Dream About You, 2010, etc.).
After marrying off all three of her daughters (one of them twice to the same man), Sookie Poole is looking forward to kicking back and spending time with her husband and her beloved birds. She’s worked hard throughout life to be a good mother to her four children and a perfect daughter to her octogenarian mother. Lenore Simmons Krackenberry’s a legend in Point Clear, Ala., and has always been narcissistic, active in all the “right” organizations, and extremely demanding. She’s also become increasingly bonkers, a disorder that seems to run in the Simmons family. Throughout much of her life, Sookie’s never felt as if she’s measured up to Lenore’s exacting standards, and she’s terrified she, too, might lose her marbles. Then, Sookie receives an envelope filled with old documents that turn her world and her beliefs about herself and her family topsy-turvy. Her emotional quest for answers leads Sookie down a winding yet humorous path, as she meets with a young psychiatrist at the local Waffle House and tracks down descendants of a Polish immigrant who opened a Phillips 66 filling station in Pulaski, Wis., in 1928. What she discovers about the remarkable Jurdabralinski siblings inspires her: Fritzi, the eldest daughter, developed a unique idea to keep her father’s business operating during difficult times, but her true passion involved loftier goals. During World War II, she used her exceptional skills to serve her country in an elite program, and two of her sisters followed suit. Finding inspiration in their professional and personal sacrifices, Sookie discovers her own courage to make certain decisions about her life and to accept and take pride in the person she is. This is a charming story written with wit and empathy. The author forms a comfortable bond with readers and offers just the right blend of history and fiction.
Flagg flies high, and her fans will enjoy the ride.