I picked this one up on one of my compulsive thrift hauls, sitting on my shelf since sometime this past fall. I was curious to see if Shreve would leave the same impression on me, as this is my second Shreve novel (the other being Testimony, which I read back in 2011). I found them similar in that they were slow to start but packed a punch by the end.
For me, The Pilot’s Wife took a little while to get into because of Shreve’s writing style between chapters. There isn’t much awareness between the present moments and the change to past memories, with the exception of a chapter break and the punctuation of dialogue, which changes from quotations to em dashes. The first few chapters, the present tense would hook me into the plot, and then the flashback chapters would confuse me. It was almost as if I should be looking for clues in the flashbacks, but I had no idea what to look for. This slowed the pace, and I’m not a fan when the author controls my pace, haha. I want the action! This was similar in Testimony, so I’m going to guess that this is Shreve’s style. (Fans of hers, am I correct?) The other similarity I picked up on was how the plot is revealed. At first, there’s a lot of detail, background and setting and character relationship information. This bogs me down, but Shreve uses really beautiful language and there was enough interesting tidbits within that made me want to continue reading, not quit.
Right from the very first chapter, Shreve introduces her main character, Kathryn, who is awoken in the middle of the night by a man knocking on her door. Her daughter Mattie is asleep down the hall, and her husband Jack, an airline pilot, was overseas in London and due back around lunchtime. When she finally answers the door, a man named Robert, a rep from the airline union, gives her the worst news: Her husband’s plane had exploded over the Atlantic, and there were no survivors.
Kathryn, now a widow, is faced with the aftermath, including varying rumors that the accident was Jack’s fault. Trying to help her daughter and herself come to terms, Kathryn attempts to prove Jack’s honor, but ends up finding seemingly insignificant details coming together to prove that Jack had something to hide. When Kathryn pieces everything together, the reader is left to wonder how the pilot’s wife will continue on with the newfound knowledge.
I’ve just recently found out that there is also a movie of this novel, so I’m curious to see how it will compare, but I always think the book is better so I guess it doesn’t matter too much. The Pilot’s Wife has Oprah’s Book Club seal of approval, and if you’re in for an intimately gripping read, I’d give Shreve’s novel a chance.