Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Review: Flying at Night

By Jami Deise

I’m a huge fan of advice columns like Carolyn Hax’s and Amy Dickinson’s. One question that seems to come up a lot is a dilemma that seems specific to the “sandwich generation.” A reader writes in that a parent was abusive growing up. Now he’s old and sick and alone. What does the adult child owe to this parent? The professional advice-givers tell these writers to put their own emotional well-being first. Will caring for this parent trigger painful memories? Or will leaving her to the mercy of the system cause unbearable guilt?

This is the dilemma that faces Piper, one of three protagonists in Rebecca L. Brown’s debut novel, Flying at Night. Piper’s father Lance, nicknamed the Silver Eagle, is a narcissistic airline pilot whose wife and children were never good enough for him. But after a heart attack leaves him brain damaged, Piper’s mother Judy walks out on him, leaving him to the mercy of a sub-par nursing home. At the same time, Piper’s nine-year-old son Fred is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, as his difficulty in forming relationships begins to impact him in school. Even so, Piper moves Lance into her home and tries to juggle his therapy appointments with Fred’s needs, while her husband Isaac works 24/7. Gradually, Fred and Lance form their own relationship, a development that reminded me of the Harrison Ford movie Regarding Henry.

Brown tells the story through three first-person points-of-view: Piper’s, Fred’s, and Lance’s. Lance’s is particularly poignant, as the first few chapters take place before his heart attack. He is a confident man who loves his life, although he’s completely oblivious to the pain he’s caused his family. After the heart attack, his voice is very similar to Fred’s.

I did have some issues with the writing – Brown has trouble at times keeping Piper’s voice at a higher level than Fred’s and Lance’s. Piper is also written as a bit oblivious herself, blindsided by her son’s diagnosis (and unable to see his similarities to Isaac). I also found myself questioning the circumstances of Lance’s brain injury, as he is originally declared brain dead before regaining consciousness after being taken off life support.

But Brown is a debut novelist, and such weaknesses are understandable. (And isn’t this what editors are for?) She’s not Jodi Picoult, but Flying at Night will definitely appeal to Picoult fans, as well as readers who are not looking for fiction to escape reality, but to explain it.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

Grandma Cootie said...

I received an ARC of flying at night. Even allowing for the debut author issues, I thought it was a very powerful story. Enjoyed your review.