Jeanette Vaughan,
Flying Solo: An Unconventional Aviatrix Navigates Turbulence in Life
(AgeView Press, 2012)

Nora Jean Broussard Greenwood may resemble a lot of other stay-at-home-moms in 1950s New Orleans. She and Frank have four children, live in a nice house and have decent servants. And because of the elevated status of the extended Greenwood family, Nora and Frank are members of the kinds of organizations that only rich Southern men and women are invited to join. On the surface, life is running as smooth as silk.

Except that it's not. Nora's stuck in an abusive marriage with a womanizing alcoholic. The Catholic Church doesn't approve of divorce, so there appears to be little remedy for her situation. And the Greenwoods are so powerful in this city that it would be societal suicide to suggest any wrongdoing on the part of one of their own. That would be Frank. Nora would be seen as a mere interloper who has somehow nudged herself into the fold from the outside world.

Thank goodness Nora has her best friend Charlene to confide in, as well as the joyful distraction of her new flying lessons. Yes, Nora has decided to learn how to fly, without letting her husband know. In 1961, she seems to be finally exerting the independent spirit that was hiding inside of her, all along. At the same time, she's fallen in love with her flight instructor, Steve Novak. The feeling is mutual. Under different circumstances, these two lovebirds would wing off into the sunset as true and utter soulmates. But that just can't happen. Steve is also married, Catholic and has six kids. His wife Marci is a near-invalid who suffers from multiple sclerosis. So even though Nora and Steve appear to have the makings of becoming a perfect couple, they simply cannot pursue any kind of lasting relationship. Neither one is eager to admit that fact, but it's true.

And then Nora learns that she is pregnant with Steve's baby.

If this complication had arisen in the 21st century -- or even just a few decades later -- the story would probably have resolved itself in a different sort of way. But this is 1961, in high society, in the Deep South. Yikes.

We follow along as Nora puts in motion an intricate plan for getting a divorce and for assuring the security of her children. Thanks to her new aviator license and her savvy thought of using the Greenwood family Piper as collateral, she's successful. But then there's the matter of Steve, Marci, their children, and the baby on the way. Amazingly enough, Marci suggests that Nora and her brood move in temporarily with the Novaks to save money and to have a place to live. Nora can then "assist" Marci. The mistress and the wife, living together under the same roof, with all of their children and the man they both love. What?!? How can our by-this-time heroine possibly agree to this unusual and potentially stressful arrangement? What in the world will happen to everyone after the baby arrives? And what about Nora's discovery of her own genealogical secret?

Author Jeanette Vaughan is a practiced storyteller. She's even adept at conveying the details of some very steamy sex scenes. Throughout her entire narrative, readers will be cheering for Nora and hoping for the best outcome with Steve and all of the children. Given the circumstances of the time and the place, however, no one should be too shocked at the ending.

We are left to wonder: How much of this story is true? And what relationship, if any, exists between the real-life Nora and the author of this book? What would happen if this same situation occurred today? Nevertheless, this tale is a compelling one that widely considers the rights and daily lives of American women in the not-so-distant past. It is worthwhile reading for just about any woman, of just about any age. It'll be a tougher sell to a male audience, except to those guys who happen to be pilots. The flight angle should appeal to them.

(Some of the proceeds from the sale of this book will support the author's son, who has Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. Note to other early readers: some typographical and grammatical errors found in the first printing are said to have been addressed and corrected for subsequent editions.)

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Corinne H. Smith

8 September 2012

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new