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This review is from: Flight of Passage (Hardcover)
Well, I expected this to be good - how could the tale of two teenage brothers flying together in a Piper Cub across continental Ammerica east to west and back again NOT be good?! - but I think this was in the end an excellent read. I was moved, charmed, and thrilled by the story of Rinker and his older brother Kern first restoring the aircraft in the family barn over the winter, and then the adventure of the flight itself.
But there was more to this book than the 'adventure' itself. This is an endearingly told story also of brothers and how they are able to simultaneously love and hate each other, and how their relationship eventually blossoms. These brothers however, each have a quite different relationship with their father - the one legged former barnstormer pilot Tom Buck. His lively pipe-smoking presence looms imperiously in the background as these boys are literally trying to fly away. The twists and turns in this aspect of the story are told with a beautiful poignancy.
'I looked back several times at my father as he waved, wiggling
the wings for him a couple of more times. Behind and below me,
he was framed by the tail section of the plane, as if in a
picture. I remember the way the sunlight turned the grass
around him a hard green, and the way the image of him was
blurred and kept going double from the slipstream beating my
hair into my face and whipping up tears in the corners of my
eyes. I was filled with an immense sadness and happiness for
him at once, and afterward I couldn't understand why that
particular vision of him moved me so much, or why it returned
so often in my dreams. After a while I just accepted it as a
portrait of contentment between us. Maybe we would never say
it that way but the truth was that we were happiest watching
each other recede in the distance.'
Back to the flying at the heart of this lovely memoir. Buck has a fantastically simple way of saying things that are both eloquent and straightforward. There is plenty of technical detail in the flight descriptions but I never felt that it was too difficult for me to grasp whatever was happening to '71-Hotel' or the air around it through which it flew. Some of the prose describing their passage over a July 4th weekend USA is as delightful as any I've read.
I could insert other passages here in this review to show off Buck's fine writing, but I won't as time is pressing in on us. The chapter covering the Rocky Mountain traverse is brilliantly written and is simply enthralling. The many varied characters they encounter are wonderful slices of Americana of the mid-60s. This was a highly satisfying book and will please readers of many different genres. Read it!