When author Kim Wright offered me a copy of her novel, Love in Mid Air to review, I had to say yes, because even though there’s an abundance of contemporary women’s fiction available on the market, there aren’t many really good stories where the protagonist is around my age (for the record, I’ll be 40 in about three weeks) – generally what I find are stories about women in their twenties and thirties, or women in their fifties and beyond. Forty, apparently, is not a sexy age to write about. (This needs to change. Modern forty-year-olds might technically be middle aged, but most of us look, act, and feel much younger, and lead rich, vibrant lives full of potential.)
I was in the middle of yet another Elin Hilderbrand novel when Ms. Wright’s book arrived, and then I got distracted by something else, but I finished it a couple of days ago, and I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable, and even plausible.
Elyse, a nearly forty-year-old Southern woman with a young daughter and a pottery studio in her garage, is on her way back from a trip to the Southwest, when she meets a fellow traveler, Gerry. As can often happen when you’re stuck rubbing elbows in the back of the coach class on an airplane, the two struck up a conversation, one that was almost instantly loaded with chemistry. Despite the fact that their flight lands late, making both have to literally sprint for their connecting flights (she to her Southern suburban home, he to New England), they recognize a spark between them, and even though both are married to other people, they take a moment to share the perfect airport kiss.
Reading this at the same time that I’m watching (and trying to be supportive of) two of our close friends struggling with their marriage, I completely got it. Elyse and her husband Phil, from the outside, had a great relationship, but people outgrow each other, and her needs, those of a grown woman with an education and an artistic soul, were not being met.
The plot point of Elyse and Gerry having an affair (one where they only see each other once a month or so, for long weekends, in cities where neither lives), may be a bit predictable, but the affair isn’t really the point of this novel. It’s merely a catalyst, a device used to illustrate Elyse’s growing dissatisfaction with her current way of life.
Fortunately, Elyse is supported by other strong women, who serve as confidantes (especially in the case of her long-time friend Kelly, who once had an affair of her own), and a sort of Greek chorus. While none of them knows what’s really going on, each has her own issues, and even “throwaway” lines give us glimpses into the secret lives of suburban church women.
While this book is never going to be topping the list of gifts for men at redenvelope, it isn’t at all chick lit. It’s a satisfying, well written, incredibly candid novel about adult women and adult relationships, and how all of us find ourselves in mid air – figuratively, at least – at some point in our lives.
Would I recommend this book as a gift, though? Yes. I’d recommend it to women who want to write, to women who are roughly my age, and even a bit older or younger. I’d gift it to my women friends (and, in fact, will be passing my own copy on to my mother when she comes to visit in August), and to select members of my family. I think giving a book as a gift is much better than giving anything that is a mere object, because with a book, you are giving a few hours of reading pleasure, and the gift of imagination.
Goes well with: Unsweetened iced tea and a chicken Caesar salad.