I received this book free through Goodreads First Reads.
The main character of the book is Sally Ketchem. She learned to fly from her boyfriend, Tex Jones. Tex is dead at the beginning of this novel, Sally reflecting on the horrible plane crash that killed him and nearly killed her as well. What Tex gave Sally was the confidence to fly and take chances. She left behind the poverty and discrimination of her home in Texas after her alcoholic father dies, applying for the WASP program due to her love of flying
The women pilots who volunteered for the WASP program received none of the benefits accorded to male pilots, or any male serving in the US military. They were to fly planes and ferry them from one station to another, leaving the male enlisted pilots to fight and fly into battle. Many of the women had superior skills compared to some of their male counterparts, yet they were discriminated against as many of the men felt a female had no place in the cockpit.
When one woman pilot is killed, the other female students are shocked to find that as a civilian, the the military was not required to pay for her funeral or even for her remains to be sent home. All the pilots pitched in and when it came to the attention of Jacqueline Cochran, head of the woman’s aviation department, she arranged for donations as well. They collected enough money to send her remains home by train.
The character named Waterman, a lawyer hired by Congress to find a way to shut down the WASP program, turns out to be a villain in more ways than one. There is a twist at the end that puts all the pieces together regarding his hate of Sally Ketchum.
Lots of other interesting characters are developed in this book, other women choosing to become pilots and from all walks of life.
It wasn’t until 1979 that women of the WASP program were granted recognition and veteran status for their service to the military. If you have a chance to check out the women of WASP I’d recommend it. It’s a good story. After reading more about the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot) program I realized the author really did his homework.
One scene in particular highlighted a delight of food. Two pilots who needed to make a forced landing in a famer’s field were treated to some home cooked meals. It was the first good food they’d had in awhile and they were encouraged to eat as much as they wished. Memories of their life before they entered the Army (and it’s structured and scant meal offerings) were warmly revisited. There is nothing like a loaf of homemade bread.
Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor