Dear Mrs. Lindbergh

Dear Mrs. Lindbergh

by Kathleen Hughes
     
 

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"A compassionate exploration of a woman's life—between motherhood and dreaming, living the everyday and taking flight."—Jane Mendelsohn, author of I Was Amelia Earhart
When two elderly Iowans, Ruth and Henry Gutterson, disappear mysteriously on their way home from Thanksgiving, their adult children find a crate of Ruth's letters written to Anne Morrow

Overview

"A compassionate exploration of a woman's life—between motherhood and dreaming, living the everyday and taking flight."—Jane Mendelsohn, author of I Was Amelia Earhart
When two elderly Iowans, Ruth and Henry Gutterson, disappear mysteriously on their way home from Thanksgiving, their adult children find a crate of Ruth's letters written to Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In the letters the children read of the origins of their parents' passion: how they first met in 1924 when Henry crashed his Air Mail plane into Ruth's family's cornfield; how Ruth flew alongside Henry as his navigator; about Ruth's passion for flying; and how the birth of her children kept her on the ground.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A passion for flight in the exhilarating early days of air travel and the deep demands of home and family form the background of this bittersweet debut novel. Growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1920s, Ruth Sheehan longs to fly like the glamorous lady barnstormers of the decade, but she isn't even permitted to go to nursing school. When pilot Henry Gutterson, a WWI vet, lands his airmail plane in her parents' field, she's given a chance at love and at flight. As Henry's wife, Ruth navigates his airmail routes in their fragile Jenny, "the Model T" of planes. Pregnancy grounds her, but still she wants "to feel the world fall away from her, to feel the land flatten out and spread" in flight. When her second child dies, Ruth, convinced it is somehow her fault, retreats into private sorrow. She finds some comfort in writing unsolicited and unanswered letters to famous aviatrixes, especially to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, with whom she empathizes for the loss of her child. Though Henry, too, eventually quits flying, years later he encourages Ruth to renew her dream, to fly solo at last, at the age of 80. But Ruth and Henry then disappear during a Thanksgiving holiday, and their grown children must piece together the events of their last days. The trove of Ruth's letters reveals to them the desires and hopes she had long hidden. Hughes tells Ruth's story quietly and compassionately, and readers may brush away tears at the novel's affecting ending. Agent, Paula Balzer. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When we become adults, we may think that we know our parents-until they do something so uncharacteristic that we begin to wonder. Margaret Gutterson finds herself in this situation when her elderly parents go missing. As Margaret and her brother seek clues to their disappearance, she finds her mother's journals-written as letters to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh-and realizes that Ruth Gutterson is not just a farm wife and mother but someone far more complex. Ruth had a passion for flight and even went so far to marry an airmail pilot who literally dropped out of the sky onto her father's farm. But with motherhood and the tragic death of one child, Ruth abandons her dream, determined never to fly again. It isn't until years later that Ruth and her husband take to the air on their mysterious journey. Though Margaret eventually discovers what happened to them, the story is ultimately about her quest for understanding. With her debut, Hughes has given us a wonderful tale of the complexities of family and the way that we resolve inner conflict. Recommended for all public libraries.-Leann Isaac, Jameson Health Syst. Lib., New Castle, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An Iowa farm girl who becomes the wife of an early aviator finds lifetime inspiration in the parallel track of Anne Morrow Lindbergh—in Hughes’s biographically nostalgic first novel. Hughes recounts in flashback the story of a marriage begun in the ’30s and concluded sadly with the disappearance of the couple in their 80s on a round-the-world flying trip. Only daughter Ruth Sheehan of Cedar Bluff, Iowa, wants desperately to go to college and do something with her life, but she’s stuck out on the farm with her stern, aging parents when the young Air Mail pilot Henry Gutterson falls from the sky and into their cornfield. Ruth’s parents won’t pay for college and, indeed, expect nothing more from their daughter than that she marry a farmer and inherit their land. In letters to barnstormer Ruth Law, then to Mrs. Lindbergh, wife of world-famous Charles Lindbergh, Ruth vents her frustration—yet she falls in love with Henry and marries him gladly, since it’s through him and his stories of flying that Ruth sees the world. Hughes’s straightforward, rather bland narrative is told alternately from Ruth’s and then Henry’s point of view (as when a paralyzing depression seizes Ruth upon the death of her second child), and, much later, from their grown children’s: John and Margaret, who must piece together the puzzle of their missing parents. Poignantly, Ruth’s letters to Mrs. Lindbergh—who also navigated for her husband, then suffered the tragic loss of a child—fill in the emotional core of Ruth’s life as she finds peace in her incompletion. "She was always feeling, feeling, feeling," Mrs. Lindbergh writes in the one reply—too late!—that she does send. Hughes’s tale aims totear-jerk, but before tears the reader has to wrestle with a lot of dull accumulated detritus and not terrifically compelling prose. On balance, an often touching tale of lovable grandparents that reads too much like a biography. Agent: Paula Balzer

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393326222
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/28/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
312
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

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Meet the Author

Kathleen Hughes lives in Bristol, Rhode Island. She attended Yale University and earned her masters in fiction at the University of Iowa Writer's workshop. This is her first novel.

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