Learning to Fly by Michelle Irrizarry Leonard

Learning to Fly

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A young woman overcomes a painful past in order to find purpose and passion in this coming-of-age tale set in the 1970s and ’80s.

Life hasn’t been fair to Rosemarie. Abused and abandoned as a toddler, the New Jersey native spends her teenage years dodging a lecherous adoptive father in this work of fiction by first-time novelist Leonard. To avoid conflict, Rosemarie spends as much time as possible away from home. When she becomes pregnant at age 17, despite feeling some trepidation, she jumps at the chance to move in with her boyfriend, Tommy, musing: “Finally a real family.” Yet Rosemarie is soon dealt more disappointments. In order to provide for her and baby Margie, Tommy works long hours for his employer, the mysterious Vinnie. On some nights, Tommy doesn’t come home. On others, he returns covered in cuts and bruises, often reeking of whiskey and the perfume of another woman. Determined to forge her own path, Rosemarie begins taking art classes at a community college. There, she finds success as a painter and explores the possibility of a relationship with a sweet and sensitive instructor. But just as Rosemarie starts to envision a brighter future for herself, Tommy’s actions put the whole family in peril. The subjects tackled by Leonard, ranging from child abuse to domestic violence, are chilling in nature. But the power of her narrative lies in the transformation of her main character. Over the course of the novel, readers have the satisfaction of seeing Rosemarie’s views of herself—and her world—change for the better. Some plot twists are a bit too convenient, but Leonard has an eye for detail and emotional authenticity. In one bittersweet passage, the author describes the Polaroid pictures that Rosemarie hangs on her mirror. Depicting happier times, the images take on another meaning as her marriage starts to crumble, a cruel reminder “of what she wanted and what was missing in her life.”

A heart-rending, satisfying story about a resolute wife.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5147-5838-0
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2016


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