Aviator's Wife (Benjamin)

The Aviator's Wife
Melanie Benjamin, 2013
Random House
416 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345528681

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.
Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator's Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Aka—Melanie Hauser
Birth—November 24. 1962
Where—Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Education—Indiana University (Purdue University at
Currently—lives near Chicago, Illinois

Melanie Benjamin is the pen name of American writer, Melanie Hauser (nee Miller). Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Melanie is one of three children. Her brother Michael Miller is a published non-fiction author and musician. Melanie attended Indiana University—Purdue University at Indianapolis then married Dennis Hauser in 1988; they presently reside in the Chicago, Illinois area with their two sons.

Early writing
As Melanie Hauser, she published short stories in the In Posse Review and The Adirondack Review. Her short story "Prodigy on Ice" won the 2001 "Now Hear This" short story competition that was part of a WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio) program called Stories on Stage, where short stories were performed and broadcast.

When Melanie sold her first of two contemporary novels, she had to add Lynne to her name (Melanie Lynne Hauser) to distinguish her from the published sports journalist Melanie Hauser.

The first of Melanie's contemporary novels, Confessions of Super Mom was published in 2005; the sequel Super Mom Saves the World came out in 2007.  In addition to her two contemporary novels, Melanie also contributed an essay to the anthology IT'S A BOY and maintained a popular mom blog called The Refrigerator Door.

Fictional biographies
Under the pen name Melanie Benjamin (a combination of her first name and her son's first name), she shifted genres to historical fiction. Her third novel, Alice I Have Been, was inspired by Alice Liddell Hargreaves's life (the real-life Alice of Alice in Wonderland). Published in 2010, Alice I Have Been was a national bestseller and reached the extended list of The New York Times Best Seller list.

In 2011, Benjamin fictionalized another historical female. Her novel The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb focuses on the life of Lavinia Warren Bump, a proportionate dwarf featured in P.T. Barnum's shows.

Her third fictionalized biography, The Aviator's Wife, was released in 2013 and centers on Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of famed aviator, Charles Lindberg. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
Talented historical novelist Benjamin has a knack for picking intriguing, if somewhat obscure, women in history and making them utterly unforgettable.... In true Benjamin style, it’s Anne who captures us all in this exquisite fictional take on an iconic marriage.
Publishers Weekly

Delivers another stellar historical novel based on the experiences of an extraordinary woman...fictional biography at its finest.

Biographical novel of Anne Morrow and her troubled marriage to pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh. Anne, self-effacing daughter of a suffragette and an ambassador, is surprised when Charles, already a celebrity thanks to his first trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, asks her—instead of her blonde, outgoing older sister Elisabeth—to go flying with him. And it is Anne whom Charles will marry.... Although the portrayal of such a passive character could easily turn tepid, Benjamin maintains interest, even suspense, as readers wonder when Anne's healthy rebellious instincts will burst the bonds of her dutiful deference. A thoughtful examination of the forces which shaped the author of Gift from the Sea.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. The epigraph for this novel is from Antoine de Saint-Exupery who, like Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was both a celebrated author and noted aviator. Do you agree with his statement that "One must look with the heart?" What do you think that means? And do you think it means something different to an artist (author) as opposed to a scientist (aviator)?

2. One of the recurring themes is how Anne will choose to remember Charles. How do you think she concludes to remember him by the end? How does it change?

3.  Anne's father says, "And there's Anne. Reliable Anne. You never change, my daughter." (pg. 11). How does Anne change over the course of this novel? Or does she?

4. Compare the celebrity of the Lindbergh's to the celebrity couples of today. What current celebrities do Charles and Anne remind you of most?

5. How does Anne's nomadic lifestyle as the daughter of an ambassador later influence her concept of "home" with Charles? What do you think defines home?

6. Anne seems to think of herself as an outsider—someone too shy and insular to make a big impression on someone else. Do you think Charles saw through that? Or, do you think that was something about Anne that appealed to him? Is Charles an insular character himself, whether by personality or forced into a "celebrity bubble?" Or, do you think Anne simply misevaluates herself?

7. Have you ever met someone famous? Did they live up to your impression of them?

8. "Had there ever been a hero like him, in all of history?" (pg. 16) Anne starts her description of Charles with hero worship, comparing him to Columbus and Marco Polo. How does her opinion evolve as she comes to know him better? How did your opinion of Charles Lindbergh evolve through Anne's story?

9. The title of this book is, of course, "The Aviator's Wife." Do you think that's how Anne views herself upon marrying Charles? Do you think she sees that as a role she's playing, or as a defining characteristic of who she is? Does it change over the course of the book?

10. Have you ever been up in a biplane? Do you think you would ever go, even with an expert aviator at the controls?

11. Compare the relationships Anne has to the men in her life: her brother, Dwight, her father, and Charles.

12. What rights to privacy do you think a public figure should have? Does it go against being a public figure to get to decide what parts of his or her life stay private?

13. Do you think Charles and Anne were in love? Why or why not? Did that change over time?

14. Do you think you could keep the secrets that Anne keeps from her children? Why or why not?

15. What do you think flying represents to Anne? How does it compare to her with writing? Which do you think is more important to Anne?

16. Do you think Charles Lindbergh was a good husband in any ways? What do you think makes for a good partner?

17. Is Anne a hero? Why or why not?

18. If you could ask Anne a question, what would it be?

19. How does Anne's relationship with her family change after she marries Charles?

20. How would you react to the scrutiny by the press that Anne and Charles endured? Would you want to be famous if it meant being constantly under the microscope? Would you answer differently if there weren't social media outlets but the same type of newspapers and newsreels from Anne and Charles's lifetime?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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