The “demanding, sexist, exciting, glorious” golden age of air travel sets the spectacular stage for this sparkling account from former flight attendant and novelist Hood (
Kitchen Yarns). Trained at Trans World Airlines’ selective Breech Training Academy in 1978 at age 21, Hood’s airline career began in the glitzy days of Ralph Lauren uniforms, high heels, and chateaubriand carving stations, and dramatically ended eight years later in a picket line, as the combined forces of deregulation, bankruptcies, and labor strikes sent the industry into a tailspin. Despite occasionally didactic forays into the history of air travel (“Qantas Airlines operated the world’s first international passenger service in 1935 between Brisbane and Singapore”), Hood’s companionable storytelling paired with her bold skewering an oft-glamorized world—riddled with surprise weight checks and aggressive male passengers—make for an enthralling account. Equally effective is her moving story of overcoming entrenched stereotypes—“glorified waitress, a sex kitten, an archaic symbol of women”—within the industry to become a writer, drafting stories late at night on long international flights “as passengers slept” and powering through jet lag in “hotel rooms in Zurich and Paris and Rome” to craft her first novel. From takeoff to landing, this entertains and inspires. (May)
"Hood is a generous, practiced storyteller, and she enlivens her reminiscences with entertaining stories about grumpy passengers and her own gaffes... A trip worth taking."
"With celebrity sightings, emergency situations and mile-high club thrill-seekers, [
Fly Girl] is filled with engaging stories evoking a bygone era."
Washington Post - Becky Meloan
Novelist Hood's (
The Knitting Circle) delightful memoir of her stint as a TWA flight attendant in the late 1970s is full of amusing trivia, hilarious stories, and all the warmth of her novels. The book has plenty of quick anecdotes about strange passengers and happenings on her flights, her training at TWA's rigorous academy, and her world travels, and the author invites readers to settle in for this journey with her. The memoir demonstrates Hood's progression as a person, sees her growing into her position and authority as a mature and steady flight attendant, and tracks the advancement (not always for the better) of the airline industry since 1978. She also offers loads of insight into the inner workings of a commercial flight crew, incorporating the experiences of her flight-attendant peers, and analyzes the ads and pop culture references that track the changing image of flight attendants in the late 20th century. VERDICT An engaging memoir perfect for fans of Hood's and readers interested in aviation history or who love a good coming-of-age memoir. —Amanda Ray
An aspiring writer takes an unusual career path.
Growing up in West Warwick, Rhode Island, novelist and memoirist Hood was enraptured by planes. Upon graduating from college in 1978, she had two goals: to become a writer and a flight attendant. “I was the most stereotypical type of girl who became an airline stewardess,” she admits. “Small town. Love of travel. Big dreams. Craving excitement.” In this lively memoir, the author recounts how she managed to fulfill both dreams, although writing took a back seat for most of the eight years that she flew. Getting hired was stressful: Multiple interviews weeded out most applicants—in 1978, over 14,000 people applied for 550 positions at TWA—and Hood was ecstatic to be accepted. During her training, she writes, “I learned to successfully evacuate seven kinds of aircraft, fix a broken coffeemaker, deliver a baby, mix proper cocktails, carve a chateaubriand, administer oxygen, demonstrate safety equipment, and make a baby’s rattle out of two plastic cups and a couple of TWA propeller-shaped swizzle sticks.” During her six-month probationary period, she and her classmates were stringently monitored for appearance, weight, and demeanor as well as competence. They could not weigh more than they did when they were hired, a requirement that had them taking diuretics and trying crazy weight-loss diets. Sometimes, she writes, “we just drank water until a pound or two came off.” Hood, a naïve 21-year-old when she first started flying, grew into a sophisticated young woman undaunted by new cities and unfamiliar food; rude, unruly, or aggressive passengers; mishaps onboard; and some people’s assumptions that she was merely a glorified waitress. Her love of flying made her tolerate the airline’s total control of her life and time. Happily for her, as opportunities waned because of turmoil in the airline industry, her writing career began to take flight.
Colorful anecdotes make for an entertaining memoir of travel and self-discovery.
Fly Girl is a sheer pleasure. A hilarious and often moving look back at a bygone era and a young woman’s coming of age."
"In this warm and engaging memoir, Ann Hood captures the heady thrills as well as the grueling realities of life as a flight attendant during the Golden Age of air travel. Over eight years, Hood walked a million miles, explored far-flung cities, and learned invaluable lessons that shaped her as a writer and a person. A brisk history lesson, an affectionate homage, and a thoughtful critique of the airline industry,
Fly Girl soars."
"At first blush,
Fly Girl is a charming, layered memoir about Ann Hood’s life as a flight attendant who knew the industry in its glory days—and its-not-so-glorious days post-deregulation. But it’s also something much more, nothing less than a manifesto calling us to embrace joy and adventure, however we define them. I have always loved Ann’s stories and now I know why she has so many: She has lived, in the best, fullest sense of that word. She can't make the sun stand still, but, boy does she make it run."
"Winning and compulsively readable,
Fly Girl is like a first-class ticket to the sadly-bygone days when air travel was stylish, sexy and deliciously rarified. What a pleasure to see another side of this best-selling author—the small-town girl with a passion for adventure who earns her flight-attendant’s wings while decidedly discovering her own."
Fly Girl soars: Ann Hood’s memoir of her experiences as a flight attendant is a love letter to the years when flying was a dream—and the 747s ruled the skies. I was catapulted back in time and savored every second and every story from 35,000 feet in the air."
"As a young woman in the late 1970s, Ann Hood’s determination to seek an adventurous life propelled her into this contradictory profession. Now she flies readers through that era—of flight, American history, and her own life—and into the present with warmth, humor, and insight in a memoir that sparkles."