In McFall’s debut novel, a free-spirited woman and a mild-mannered man fall in love and try to make their marriage work, despite a host of obstacles.
After Ian meets the spunky, high-spirited Joanne, he finds that she’s fun and beautiful but also very moody and mercurial. Furthermore, her job as a pilot takes her far away at odd times, which makes commitment difficult. Still, over time, the two develop their relationship and eventually get married. But although Ian is blissfully happy, Joanne continues to feel stifled—a feeling that only intensifies after she gets pregnant and later gives birth to her daughter, Maris. The little girl quickly becomes the apple of her father’s eye, but her mother merely disdains her. Later, Joanne gives up any pretense of remaining faithful to Ian and goes on to have multiple affairs. The simmering tension boils over when one of Maris’ friend’s mothers turns out to be Ian’s old flame. McFall has certainly constructed an intriguing idea for a story. Joanne, in particular, has the makings of an offbeat female character—one who’s genuinely dissatisfied with domestic life but drawn into it nonetheless due to society’s expectations. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t give her nearly enough depth, and the character merely comes across as unhappy and mean-spirited. Her motivations for marriage and having children are completely obscure; she taunts her daughter with nicknames such as “Hooch,” and she never displays the humanity or complexity that would make Ian stay with her. Maris, by contrast, is overly idealized as she demonstrates kindness, bravery, and a truly remarkable flair for languages; her ability to speak perfect Japanese even drives an important twist near the story’s end. The plot conflicts, though, feel one-sided, and in the end, the overall lack of character development and superficial storytelling hold the novel back.
An underdeveloped romance about a pilot that ultimately fails to take flight.