Book Title and Author: The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar
Publication Date and Publisher: July 2, 2019 by MIRA
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII
Pages: 384 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: June 22, 2019 (papercopy from the publisher)
A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots, whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes
1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.
To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face war, and—especially when James goes missing in action—give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight for everything she holds dear.
Shining a light on a little-known piece of history, The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness in the face of adversity, and the power of friendship to make us soar.
I knew when I read the synopsis for The Flight Girls that I would enjoy this book immensely, and I wasn’t wrong. My husband is an Air Force veteran with a private pilots license, so it’s safe to say that I’ve spent plenty of my time in and around lots of planes over the past 25 years, either as a passenger or watching them from the ground. There’s something magical about flying, and Noelle Salazar manages to perfectly capture that in her debut novel even amidst the most harrowing of times―WWII.
Audrey Coltrane has always known exactly what she wants: to fly planes and eventually own her own air hanger, not be tied down with a husband and children like her mother expects. When the Army begins hiring women pilots to train new male recruits how to fly, she immediately takes the job and heads to Pearl Harbor. There she makes friends, especially with Lt. James Hart, one of the few people to understands her dreams. It’s also where she’s caught up in the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, while up in the sky.
Audrey’s brave spirit continues to persevere through the war as she joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), women trained by the army to ferry planes from one military base to another and test new and repaired aircraft before it was sent overseas, all without the benefits of militarization.
Salazar’s novel is immediately fascinating, her writing crisp, and the characters unforgettable, some heartbreakingly so. It’s particularly apparent when reading the descriptions of the training Audrey and the other women in the program went through, their day to day lives, the hard realities of the program, the male-dominated environment, the accidents, the deaths that Salazar meticulously researched the WASP program and the histories of real-life WASP women because the novel has such a realistic feel within every description.
What I loved most about this novel is the depictions of the relationships between the women in the program. Except for their love of flying, they couldn’t have been any more different, yet they bonded and became such wonderful friends. Salazar captured such distinctive personalities and clearly showed how these women were breaking the glass ceiling for the generations of women to follow them.
I’ve read many, many books about WWII but never one about the WASP women. Their courage, sacrifice, and heroism during WWII were spectacular and Salazar has written an excellent first novel depicting those attributes. It’s also a love story and an epic one too. The Flight Girls is an emotionally compelling debut (yes, I cried), and I look forward to Salazar’s next novel!
**Thank you MIRA-Harlequin Books for the gifted copy. All opinions are my own.**