Flying At Night
By Rebecca L. Brown
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
An emotionally charged debut novel, told through the voices of three family members, who learn that when your world changes, so does your destination….
Stay-at-home mom Piper Whitman Hart is too close to her nine-year-old son Fred to realize that his idiosyncrasies are signs of something more. And just when his diagnosis of autism sends her life reeling, she’s dragged back into the orbit of her emotionally abusive father, Lance, after a heart attack leaves him with brain damage.
Fred is in need of a friend. Lance is in need of care. And Piper just wants to feel stable ground beneath her feet. What she never expects is that Fred and Lance–both misunderstood by the world–will start to connect in the most miraculous of ways… (from Goodreads)
Flying at Night is a stunning first novel, one in which the range of super-charged emotions must have been challenging for the author to write. She introduces three main characters; we see life from each individual’s point of view even as we see the seasons around them changing as if in empathy. Character development is outstanding, both in terms of physical and emotional struggles. The feelings were often so raw that I could feel them, even while understanding Piper’s truth of her background.
Piper’s father is a perfectionist. As an airline pilot, Lance travelled the world.He emotionally battered his wife, son, and daughter. Piper’s husband, Isaac, is an instructor of law students and a passionate voice for the voiceless through the Innocence Project. Just as she was used to her father’s derision, she was used to Isaac being out saving the world, instead of being home with her and their son Fred.
Lance, Piper’s Father, was nicknamed the Silver Eagle when he successfully made an emergency landing in a 747. His public face and private faces are vastly different. To him, Piper is a second rate adventurer and Fred, a second rate child except for the brief months when aeronautics fascinated him and he asked questions of Lance.
Fred is an unusual child. He doesn’t get in trouble, and he is super-intelligent. He is content to be by himself instead of making friends. He fixates on subjects, such as flying, for long periods but when he is done, he moves on to the next thing without looking back. He can do his homework but chooses not to unless it interests him. He and Piper spend much time together, so much that she doesn’t notice, or doesn’t think odd, some of his behaviors.
When Fred was nine, Piper and Isaac went to a parent-teacher conference and were told Fred needed testing from the school psychologist. He is scaring other children with his current obsession of talking about war. He also has other symptoms that need evaluation.
The Silver Eagle played squash early in the morning, then went to the sauna, where he had a massive heart attack. He was not breathing when his friend found him and started CPR. Only the paramedics could resuscitate him. He was without oxygen so long that he was not expected to live off of life support. What surprises many is that Piper and her mother are not grieving, and her brother Curtiss takes his time to get there. The day arrives that Judy signs to have life support removed. And he lives. At the end of the day, he still lives. And the next day.
When he is to be released from the hospital, Piper’s mother Judy announces to Piper that she has had enough. Instead of taking Lance home, she is going to her sister’s and he will go to a nursing home. Piper went to get him settled in, and sees how terrible the place is. In a moment, she takes him home. Along with being Fred’s companion during the hours he isn’t at school, she now takes on all of Lance’s doctor appointments and therapy. Fred needs a friend – now being diagnosed with autism and highly functioning – her father also needs a friend due to the frightening brain damage from the loss of oxygen. They understand each other on many levels, while Piper tries to go with all the changes. Isaac suddenly spends more time with his family.
The characters are very well developed and likable. We primarily hear three voices – Piper, Lance, and Fred. We see the world through their eyes, and just how small their worlds really are, I understand Piper, and even what her mother has done. Fred and Lance forge a unique relationship, one that each of them desperately needs. From the outside, Isaac doesn’t impress me very much, especially as he continues to discount Piper’s feelings.
This novel carries the reader on varying currents of feelings. Lance is as a fragile shell of who he used to be, while his wife, ironically, is more alive than she has been for years. There are plot twists throughout, reflecting stunning changes and circumstances. The intensity of emotions at times can be hard to process, It is a riveting read, despite or perhaps because of the family dynamics. I did not like part of the end, as it simply seemed like a bad time for such an event. While I typically read mysteries or historical fiction, there are few mysteries quite like the human psyche. In this case, some plot twists may reveal pieces of the characters’ psyches, solving tiny pieces of the mystery throughout. As the mysteries are solved, the future of those involved change. Dramatically. And the characters model a better way to respond. Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those who appreciate very well-written women’s fiction, those with children facing challenges, or those who need to find out the freedom of flying at night.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*