ODYSSEY: A Daring Transatlantic Journey by Susan Oliver

ODYSSEY: A Daring Transatlantic Journey

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Back in 1967, actress Susan Oliver--a.k.a. Ann Howard, of TV's Peyton Place--flew the North Atlantic alone in a single-engine plane. Publicly, she was out to set records, and had hopes of flying into Russia; privately, she wanted to rekindle a flyer-lover's interest and also, antithetically, to be her own, achieving person. Unless you're heavily into celebrity-chat sincerity, the early pages (""my crush on Sandy Koufax,"" ""my supportive friend Steffi,"" my first instructor and first solo) are hard going; and, from New York take-off to Goose Bay weather-grounding, the flight itself is much worked-over. But then comes what could be fatal, and isn't: a flashback to Oliver's German and Scottish forebears, her individualistic grandparents (one grandmother founded Va.'s Hedgerow Theatre), her talented, decent, divorced parents, her makeshift Depression upbringing, her term as a struggling actress, her sudden H'wood (The Green-Eyed Blonde) and B'way (Look Back in Anger) success. None of this is remarkable, except in its unaffectedness: and when Oliver says (of her odd-job days), ""I absolutely loved ushering in that darkened theater,"" you can see the lure of a lone flight. Then, after a clean-breast chapter on. that obsessive, destructive love affair, we return to Goose Bay for the second leg of the flight, over Greenland to the tiny landing field at Narssassquaq, 60 miles up one of the hundreds of fjords (to which Ernest Gann's Fate Is the Hunter is the only useful guide). Oliver flies into overcast Iceland on US Armed Forces Radio (unable to raise any of the standard signals), and makes it to Scotland in the dark. For her, getting a ""Nyet"" from the Russians at Copenhagen isn't disastrous; but the crowds and photographers disappear, she returns home unheralded. . . and that already-faithless lover peremptorily dumps her. Shattered, she discovers Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism and (with a little counseling too) bounces back: transformed. (Her revenge on the lover is to hear that he's said, ""How dare she look so happy without me!"") Tailor-made perhaps for the celebrity/aviation/transcendence audience, feminist division--but, one feels, an honest specimen of its kind.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Macmillan