Title: Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
An emotionally charged debut novel of a family on the brink–an autistic child, his determined mother, and her distant father–who learn that when your world changes, you find out who you really are. . . .
While she was growing up, Piper’s father, Lance “the Silver Eagle” Whitman, became a national hero piloting a plane through an emergency landing. But at home, he was a controlling and overbearing presence in her life, raining emotional and verbal abuse upon the entire family.
It’s no surprise, then, that as an adult, Piper has poured all of her energy into creating a warm and loving home for her own family, while catering to her son Fred’s ever-growing idiosyncrasies.
Then Lance has a heart attack, leaving him with a brain injury–and dependent upon Piper for his care–just before tests confirm Piper’s suspicions that Fred is on the autism spectrum.
A powerful and extraordinary novel, Flying at Night gives voice to Fred, trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t quite understand him; to Lance, who’s lost what made him the man he was, for better and worse; and to Piper, who, while desperately trying to navigate the shifting landscape around her, watches as her son and father start to connect–in the most miraculous ways. . . .
Flying at Night by Rebecca L. Brown is a bittersweet and touching novel of healing.
Piper Whitman has a lot on her plate when she unexpectedly becomes her father’s caretaker. Her husband, Isaac Hart, is a law professor who is also part of The Innocence Project so he works long hours and even when he is home, he is not always engaged with his family. Their nine year old son, Fred, is a delight but his many quirks and idiosyncrasies exhaust Piper. Her relationship with her father, airplane pilot Lance “the Silver Eagle” Whitman is rife with childhood memories of his emotional abuse so she is anxious when spending time with him. When Lance suffers a heart attack, he is not expected to live but no one is really heartbroken about their impending loss. Much to everyone’s shock (and dismay), he pulls through but he has brain damage so he is facing an extensive recovery period. Just as Piper and Isaac receive a troubling diagnosis about Fred, Piper is stunned when her mother decides to leave Lance, which leaves Piper responsible for his care. Will the time father and daughter spend together prove to be a period of healing? Or will Piper continue to cling tightly to her hurt and resentment?
Piper is not exactly a likable character. She is prickly, angry and resentful about many things in her life. She shoulders the brunt of responsibility for taking care of Fred, but to be fair, she has not really articulated her need for more help from Isaac. Her reaction to Fred’s diagnosis is frustrating since she is focused on placing blame for his condition. While she is certainly concerned about his future, Piper wallows in self-pity at the realization his future will not be what she envisioned.
Piper’s relationship with Lance is fraught with tension and residual anger over the way he treated his family during her childhood. She is upset about her current situation, but like she does in other areas of her life, she refuses to seriously examine her emotions or try to find a solution to the distressing situation. A bit of a martyr, Piper is initially only going through the motions while helping her father. However, due to the drastic changes in his personality following the brain injury from the heart attack, he is nothing like he used to be. Unlike the controlling and hypercritical man he was before, Lance is now child-like and helpless as he works to regain the skills he has lost.
Young Fred is a truly wonderful little boy who is extremely intelligent yet lacking in social skills. There is never any question that Piper deeply loves her son and she is incredibly defensive when he gets an unexpected diagnosis. Fred is surprisingly intuitive when it comes to helping his grandfather and Piper is deeply moved by their loving interactions.
Flying at Night is a wonderfully redemptive novel that is quite captivating. The characters are well developed with all too human frailties that are frustrating yet very easy to relate to. The storyline is deeply affecting and some of the passages are laugh out funny while others are so poignant it it is impossible not to become teary-eyed. A very impressive debut by Rebecca L. Brown that will touch readers’ hearts as they join Piper, Fred and Lance on their sometimes painful yet ultimately heartwarming journey.