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The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve Book Review

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve Book Review

I received this book for free from Library for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
Publication Date: 1998
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary
Setting: USA-Maine
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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How well do you really know someone? A great story but the audiobook narrator bored me a bit. This book would make for a good book club discussion.


3* – I liked it. I really liked the premise of the story of The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve. The author skillfully described the beautiful New England setting and the drama and grief that envelopes the family the pilot left behind. I think I would have liked it more if I had read the book instead of listened to the audiobook, I found the narrator montone and I found myself spacing out at times.


Synopsis from Goodreads:


“A pilot’s wife is taught to be prepared for the late-night knock at the door. But when Kathryn Lyons receives word that a plane flown by her husband, Jack, has exploded near the coast of Ireland, she confronts the unfathomable-one startling revelation at a time. Soon drawn into a maelstrom of publicity fueled by rumors that Jack led a secret life, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was, whatever that knowledge might cost. Her search propels this taut, impassioned novel as it movingly explores the question, How well can we ever really know another person?”


My Thoughts:


The Pilot’s Wife chronicles the lives of the Lyons Family. Mother and devoted wife, Kathryn Lyons, has a simple and peaceful life that she shares with her increasingly rebellious teenage daughter, Mattie and her husband, Jack, who works as a pilot.


Kathryn’s life shatters one night from that dreaded knock on her door, a man in a suit telling her that her husband was killed in a crash. As if Kathryn’s struggle to deal with her grief is not enough, she starts unraveling clues that her husband is not what he seemed. She is further confused by the man in the suit, is he friend or foe and can she trust what he tells her? Will she be able to raise her daughter on her own, the daughter who was daddy’s little girl?


Overall, I enjoyed the premise of the story. Ms. Shreve skillfully described the beautiful New England setting and the drama and grief that envelopes Kathryn, her daughter Mattie and her mother Julia. Ms. Shreve came up with clever clues leading the reader into questioning whether there was more to husband Jack than he seemed. I certainly didn’t expect all the twists and turns towards the end of the story.


The book certainly raised questions like how well do you really know someone? Even if you are married to them? Or are their mother? It prompted quite an amusing dialogue with my Superhubby and I love when books make you think about how it relates to your life or what you would do if placed in the characters’ situation. The Pilot’s Wife certainly did that for me.


The drawback, however, for me was the narrator of the audiobook. Her voice was more monotone than I would have liked and I often found myself losing focus. The strength of the story pulled me through but I think for future Anita Shreve novels, I will avoid the audiobook. I think this would be a great book club selection as it would be sure to promote lively discussion.

PILOT'S WIFE by @AnitaShreve1, a skillfully told story about grief and surviving family secrets #bookclub Click To Tweet


Books Like This You Might Enjoy: 


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain – 5*, family drama – Riley thinks her older sister committed suicide

The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain – 5*, characters find out the truth about their best friend’s suicide

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle – 5*, Gia tries to find out whether her father murdered her stepmother before he dies of cancer


For a complete listing of books I’ve reviewed, check out my Book Review Index by Rating to see which ones are my favorites!


What did you think of The Pilot’s Wife? How well do you think you know your spouse? What books have you read that would make good book club selections and prompt fun and interesting discussion? Let me know in the comments and as always, thanks for stopping by. Happy reading!

About Anita Shreve

From Barnes & Noble: “Anita Shreve is the author of the novels The Weight of Water, Resistance, Where or When, Strange Fits of Passion and Eden Close. She has taught at Amherst College and is the recipient of the PEN/L.L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and family. Her most recent book, Fortune’s Rocks, is also available from Random House AudioBooks.

For many readers, the appeal of Anita Shreve’s novels is their ability to combine all of the escapist elements of a good beach read with the kind of thoughtful complexity not generally associated with romantic fiction. Shreve’s books are loaded with enough adultery, eroticism, and passion to make anyone keep flipping the pages, but the writer whom People magazine once dubbed a “master storyteller” is also concerned with the complexities of her characters’ motivations, relationships, and lives.
Shreve’s novels draw on her diverse experiences as a teacher and journalist: she began writing fiction while teaching high school, and was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her story, “Past the Island, Drifting.” She then spent several years working as a journalist in Africa, and later returned to the States to raise her children. In the 1980s, she wrote about women’s issues, which resulted in two nonfiction books — Remaking Motherhood and Women Together, Women Alone — before breaking into mainstream fiction with Eden Close in 1989.
This interest in women’s lives — their struggles and success, families and friendships — informs all of Shreve’s fiction. The combination of her journalist’s eye for detail and her literary ear for the telling turn of phrase mean that Shreve can spin a story that is dense, atmospheric, and believable. Shreve incorporates the pull of the sea — the inexorable tides, the unpredictable surf — into her characters’ lives the way Willa Cather worked the beauty and wildness of the Midwestern plains into her fiction. In Fortune’s Rocks and The Weight of Water, the sea becomes a character itself, evocative and ultimately consuming. In Sea Glass, Shreve takes the metaphor as far as she can, where characters are tested again and again, only to emerge stronger by surviving the ravages of life.
A domestic sensualist, Shreve makes use of the emblems of household life to a high degree, letting a home tell its stories just as much as its inhabitants do, and even recycling the same house through different books and periods of time, giving it a sort of palimpsest effect, in which old stories burn through the newer ones, creating a historical montage. “A house with any kind of age will have dozens of stories to tell,” she says. “I suppose if a novelist could live long enough, one could base an entire oeuvre on the lives that weave in and out of an antique house.

Shreve’s work is sometimes categorized as “women’s fiction,” because of her focus on women’s sensibilties and plights. But her evocative and precise language and imagery take her beyond category fiction, and moderate the vein of sentimentality which threads through her books. Moreover, her kaleidoscopic view of history, her iron grip on the details and detritus of 19th-century life (which she sometimes intersperses with a 20th-century story), and her uncanny ability to replicate 19th-century dialogue without sounding fusty or fussy, make for novels that that are always absorbing and often riveting. If she has a flaw, it is that her imagery is sometimes too cinematic, but one can hardly fault her for that: after all, the call of Hollywood is surely as strong as the call of the sea for a writer as talented as Shreve.”

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  1. I’ve never read the Pilot’s Wife! I’m not sure I’ve read any of Anita Shreve. How is that possible? Where have I been? I haven’t been doing audio books for awhile (and that sounds like a good thing–at least for this one) I should read this, though.

    I love coming here and getting book ideas! You’re the best! 🙂

  2. I’m so sad about the narrator for this book because I loved it so much! But I didn’t listen to it, so that might be why. They came out with a movie (I think on Lifetime? It sounds Lifetime’ish) that was pretty decent, too. It’s funny, though, because my husband’s name is Jack and I forgot that the guy in this book shared the name! Great review!

    1. Lol, it does sound like a Lifetime’ish movie. Your husband’s name is Jack, hee hee! My Superhubby’s reaction was so funny when I gave him the hypothetical situation. This one and Persuasion got the best response from him and he didn’t even read them. The guy has always made me laugh. Thanks for the compliment, I want to check out the other 2 you suggested, the scenery sounded amazing!

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