In leaving the ground, he left all of the craziness behind. Nothing could touch him, no hatred, no rumors, no law. If only it were possible to just keep flying, on and on until the land turned into ocean and back to land again. If only he could go far enough to be certain what was left behind him never caught up.
Susan Crandall’s The Flying Circus is an adventure story at heart – in true ‘running away to join the circus’ vein – and with all the added excitement of flying in unreliable jalopies of planes, being on the run from the law, and teaming up with a traumatized World War 1 vet, possibly the most headstrong girl in existence, and an adorable little pup.
Henry Schuler Jefferson needs to leave town in a hurry, although he never could have predicted the ways his life would change when he happened upon a motorcyclist and a pilot playing chicken in an empty field. Because it’s there he meets the people that will become his friends, his co-workers, his loves, his family. Enter Gil, the pilot of the plane and former flying ace, who’s as loathe to talk about his past as Henry is. And Cora Rose, a former socialite who longs for adventure, and will damn well make her own if nobody sees fit to let her have one. Along the way, the secrets that each of them are keeping come into play, sometimes in haunting or horrifying ways.
Crandall’s prose is moving and genuine: You really feel each character’s distinct and deep desperation; their complete fear of connecting with each other – and their inability to do anything but; their individual strengths and weaknesses, and how those combine and clash when they’re on the road. I wanted so much for certain things to happen, for a character to get what they wanted or needed, but at the same time, I was dreading it as much as they were. And the descriptions – like the quote above about flying – were crisp and complete – Henry may be feeling jealous or worried or lost, but, as a reader, I was always right there with him, always enveloped in whatever emotion he was having: Even when I wished I wasn’t (I mean the poor guy really did not have an easy road to walk):
“Sometimes we’re born where we belong and sometimes we have to search to find our place.” He took her other hand. “Which are you, Henry?” “Both. I was born right where I belonged. But the world took it away. Now I have to find my place.” She surprised him by sitting down on his knee and wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning her head against his. “I think you’ve found your place.” He didn’t dare think it. Not if he wanted it to last.
I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would going into it (The NetGalley summary didn’t give all that much away); This trio of misfits and their burdened hearts somehow wormed their way into mine. Highly recommended.