If you only take one thing away from this review, let it be this:
“Buy this book!”
Make sure you get “Taking Flight” by Sarah Solmonson. There is at least one other book out there of the same title by a different author. I don’t mean to disparage the other book (I am not familiar with it at all), but I want to make sure you do not miss out on this one.
There are many books that will bring tears to your eyes. There are a few books that will, upon finishing them, make you say, “Wow.” When I finished reading “Taking Flight,” I leaned my head back and with tears in my eyes, said softly but emphatically, “Wow.”
As near as I can tell from her website and her Amazon author page, this is Sarah’s first book, although I find that very difficult to believe. “Taking Flight” is written with a style and maturity that takes many writers years (and several books) to develop.
In a way, this book is a microcosm of her father’s journey of building his own airplane all the way through to his first flight. The story builds the background methodically, complete with triumphs and frustrations, chronicling all of the life stuff that happens along the way, building to a crescendo of emotion as he rolls down the runway, being bumped by each gofer hole and clod of grass, until at the end, despite the wrenching heartache experienced along the way, you are lifted into the sky of your dreams and finish on a soaring note.
As a writer myself, I have found that a well-written book elicits one of two responses: it entertains me or it inspires me to reach new heights in my own writing. For me, “Taking Flight” does both.
Several poignant passages touched me deeply, one of which sticks out in my mind.
Sarah’s father David had noticed that most of the music he collected was by musicians who were dead. His favorites featured artists who had died in plane crashes. Sarah recounts the death of John Denver, a famous folk singer and avid private pilot who perished when the plane he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay. In the following passage she shares the importance of John Denver’s music to her memories of her father.
“John Denver’s anthology is safely housed in my iPod, available whenever I need music to match the country roads that exist in my dreams.”
That passage was especially meaningful to me. My father was not a pilot, and as far as I knew he did not own any John Denver CDs and I never heard him listen to any of his music. However, I have been a huge fan of John Denver my whole life. His peaceful spirit and the beauty in his lyrics and music have always caused a deep stirring in me. We found out after my dad passed away in 2011 that he had many John Denver songs downloaded on his computer. Although my dad suffered from some bitterness and sadness in his later years, knowing that he listened to John Denver reassures me that he had found peace (or at least was actively looking for it).
There are many other lyrical and artful passages in this book, but you will have to read it and discover them for yourself.
If I have one criticism of this book, it would be the use of single letters to denote the first initial of some characters in the book (as opposed to using fictitious names). Before I proceed I want to emphasize that this is a minor criticism and in no way should it deter you from buying this book: you will be missing out on a gem if you pass on this book.
The first instance was in referring to her first boyfriend. It confused me at first, until he left the story. At that time I thought,
“It makes perfect sense now. The story is about Sarah and David and Jan, and using the boyfriend's name when it turns out he is not an integral part of the story would be distracting. I understand now.”
However, when some relatives were referred to by name while others were given a letter like the boyfriend, I found it to be a little distracting. Again, this is just a little nit-picking and does not take away from the overall quality of this book. There may have been a reason for this technique that I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate.
If you only buy one book this year, make it “Taking Flight” by Sarah Solmonson. If you buy a hundred books this year, make sure this is one of them. Bottom line – this book is a must-have in your collection. There are a lot of books, which after having read them, we put them down and move on. Special books, after reading them, cause us to think, “Wow, I’m glad I found that book. I would be the poorer if I had never read that one.”
This is one of those special books.