As I was mentally writing my review for this book midway through it, I realized that my only complaint was that it wasn’t a The Right Stuff -length piece. At first I was thinking how if Koppel focused only on the Mercury astronaut wives, we could have learned so much more about them in greater depth, but then we would have missed the differing responses to the Apollo One tragedies in Pat White, consumed by her husband’s loss, and Martha Chaffee’s fortitude in moving on. (That perhaps sounds judgmental, but rest assured, I see far more of myself in Pat). We would have missed the Eisele’s first astro-divorce, and the strain on the Aldrin and Lovell families with each moon shot. I didn’t want fewer stories, I just wanted a book on each of the women.
It was sometimes difficult keeping each relationship straight and remembering who was married to whom, which wives were close, and some we barely were introduced to, but if I had gotten the book I was imagining it would have run into the thousands of pages.
Additionally, I’m from Grand Rapids, home of Roger Chaffee, so I’m well acquainted with the fire that took the Apollo one astronauts and knew it was coming. But I read the pages leading up to it like I was reading a transcript of a horror movie. With a remove of decades I was still hoping that it wouldn’t happen, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the women in this book, but thanks to Lily Koppel, I have a better idea.