(If you must have politics, please scroll down)
Melanie Benjamin, the author of Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, crafts well researched and engaging books. Indeed, after just a few pages into any of her books, the reader begins to do some research on one's own to discover how much of the content of Ms. Benjamin's books is fiction and how much actual fact. The Aviator's Wife is no exception! Read about the book HERE at the author's web site and about the possible extent of writer's license HERE at BlogCritics.
The Aviator's Wife is written from the point of view of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and the reader discovers that Charles A. Lindbergh, nicknamed Lucky Lindy and The Lone Eagle, was a cold fish of a man even before the 1932 kidnapping and murder of 20-month-old Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. Lucky Lindy was confident in his ability to bring his son back home safe and sound, and he regarded the death of his first child as one of his few failures. The reader will likely conclude that the man had many failures but could not recognize those failures for what they were.
According to The Aviator's Wife, the man's biggest failure was a personal one: his definition of love was one of distance kept and micro-management. For example, when he lay on his deathbed in Maui in 1974, he instructed Anne, to whom he had been married since 1929, that she could kiss him but not until after he died. Also, he never hesitated to take Anne away from the babies so as to serve as his copilot and actually forbade Anne from bonding too closely with their six children. The Lone Eagle definitely had baggage!
Charles A. Lindbergh was perhaps the first American national hero whose success made him a legend in his own mind — in part because the fawning press fostered that legend. Tragically, it was the intrusive press that must bear at least some responsibility for the kidnapping of the Lindberghs' firstborn child: the press published maps that made it easy for the kidnapper(s) to take the baby. Even after the kidnapping and despite the Lindberghs awaiting the birth of their second child, the intrusive American press continued to pursue the Lindberghs at every turn. even to the point of publishing photographs of the baby's remains. It's no wonder that Charles A. Lindbergh despised and opposed a free press. The Aviator's Wife posits that Hitler's control of the press may have been part of Lindbergh's respect for Adolf Hitler.
Within a few years of the loss of their firstborn, the Lindberghs moved to Europe, where the press allowed the Lindberghs the kind of privacy that families need. The Lindberghs returned to the United States in 1939 at the request of the United States Army Air Corps.
The Aviator's Wife also touches upon some lesser known facts about Charles A. Lindbergh, one of those facts being that he had three extramarital liaisons (Following in the steps of his grandfather August Lindbergh, born as Ola Månsson?) which resulted in seven children born in Europe between 1958 and 1967, five of those children born to the Hesshaimer sisters in Germany and two born to his aristocratic-born secretary Valeska. When he lay dying, Lindbergh wrote to each of his former lovers and urged them to maintain secrecy. None of the illegitimate children came forward until after Anne's death in 2001, and 2003 DNA tests have confirmed that three of the children are indeed the offspring of Charles A. Lindbergh.
In The Aviator's Wife, Anne knows of her husband's letters and reads them. It is not certain that she had any such knowledge — although the fact that she is not buried by her husband's side could indicate that she may have had knowledge of her husband's many betrayals.
But don't get the mistaken idea that The Aviator's Wife is a book wallowing in self-pity and in denigrating Charles A. Lindbergh. Rather, the book is a window into the soul of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a remarkable woman. The book also reminds the reader that every marriage, no matter how perfect from the outside, is a private and complicated relationship, a relationship that even the husband and wife often do not fully understand.
I highly recommend this book! The Aviator's Wife (2013) is available for purchase and at most public libraries. A reading guide is available HERE.
The Aviator's Wife is such a good read that I'm now reading Reeve Lindbergh's No More Words, a daughter's memoir that chronicles the final days of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who lost her ability to speak because of a series of strokes.