“The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin

My mother grew up near Little Falls, MN which is famous for being the birthplace of Charles Lindbergh. As a little girl, I remember visiting historic places in that town and being surprised that his wife and I had the same name; Anne. And it was even spelled the same. COOL!

Of course after learning that she was Charles Lindbergh’s wife, which was of course super cool; I also learned that her infant son was kidnapped. But I still thought she seemed to have a better life than the other well known Anne I learned about in school around the same time; Anne Frank. She was famous too but her life was obviously tragically cut short.

As a reader, I have read Anne Morrow Lindberg’s most famous book: “Gift from the Sea” which was published in 1955 but I really got to know her much better and appreciate her more after reading Melanie Benjamin’s fictitious account which was based on original documents and letters from Anne’s life.

Anne’s father was a wealthy ambassador and she was the 2nd of 4 children who grew up with a high society lifestyle. She met Charles when she was a 21 year old college student at Smith and he already had completed his famous voyage. The historical accounts of the their family life and the kidnapping of their son are very interesting but what I didn’t know was that Charles had a number of German women who bore him 7 additional children. Also, he was a major control freak who found it difficult to share his emotions.

Anne herself was not above reproach. Later in her life, she maintained her own apartment in NYC complete with her own social network and an intimate relationship with a long time boyfriend.

And yet, even hearing all of this, this novel is about love. My favorite part of the book takes place later in their life. Charles and Anne are attending a party to celebrate the succesful return of the Apollo IX crew. Anne is dancing and enjoying herself while Charles sits by watching. Later that night he asks Anne “It occured to me that you might have missed that kind of life. Do you? Do you ever wish you hadn’t married me?”

Anne doesn’t answer him but is lost in thought over that question. Yes, he was a difficult man to be married to. Yet she loved and respected him and the marriage also brought her a rich and full life.

A few pages later they are visiting the Smithsonian to view his plane. Once again, Anne is reflecting back on their marriage and the question Charles posed to her.

Benjamin writes in Anne’s voice: “That I would never know anyone as brave, as astonishing – as frustrating, too, but that was, as I forced myself to admit finally, part of his charm… – He was the man who was, for better, for worse, my husband. I turned to him.

“No,” I said softly.
“No, what?” He turned to me.
“No, I’m not sorry I married you.”
“Oh.” And he turned back to look at his plane and he reached for my hand.”

To me, as a witness to several long term marriages, my own included, this scene captures that which is a marriage. And whether or not it really happened to Charles and Anne, I would like to think that it did. Marriage is not a fairy tale but rather a long term love and respect which is made up of a lot of day to day life. And hopefully a few poignant life making moments sprinkled in. Just for good measure.

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About Anne Loughrey

I am an avid member of several book clubs and a prolific keeper of my books. I love to discuss books and hear what others think of books I have read.
This entry was posted in "The Aviator's Wife", books, Melanie Benjamin. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin

  1. Shawn Leighton says:

    Beautiful post! I love your analysis of marriage and I would add that it applies to friendships as well,,

  2. Deb says:

    Anne, as usual you nailed it. This is on of my most favorite books. There are some really interesting videos out there of their daughter who is on the speaker circuit. Marriage is not always just so wonderful. After almost 25 years with my husband I have had those reflective moments and I would totally agree with Mrs. Lindbergh. Spouses, whether it be the husband or wife we are talking about, are worth holding on to inspite of their downfalls. Do whatever you have to in order to keep the marriage together. During the sucky time…it might seem impossible and that you just can’t take it anymore…but as you know, in life, there is hope and victory and a light at the end of every tunnel. I really loved chapter 22. The paragraph that says” He dictated, in one of his last lists, that I was to be buried next to him in Hawaii. He never asked me if this was my wish, and I nver told him that it wasn’t I let him die thinking that he would lie beside me; I let him die thinking I was honored that he had chosen me, and me alone, for this privelege. But I will not be buried next to him.”. Be true to yourself and your instinct.. Just wait and do what feels right.

    • Deb, I will have to look at the video of the daughters. I was very interested in learning their reaction to this news about their parents and how they felt about a book such as this hitting the mainstream book reading world. I knew you could relate to the marriage comments and I too loved the part about her choosing her own burial site. Thank you so much for the insights and the comment!

  3. Stacey says:

    Anne,
    Thank you blogging about this book. After reading what you wrote, I decided I’d better read this book. I just finished it and loved it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and keep up the great work. I love your blog!!

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