At times seeming like an episode of the short-lived television show Pan Am starring Christina Ricci and a young Margot Robbie, or perhaps like a really late Mad Men, (or a Mad Men fan theory), Daniel Riley’s Fly Me is about emotion and atmosphere (a blurb says that it is reminiscent of Emma Cline’s The Girls isn’t quite far off).
But aside from the comparisons, Riley’s book is very much its own creation, and surprising since its setting of the early 1970’s is long before his time and yet evocative of a long ago and far away era and yet very contemporary at the same time. Fly Me concerns Suzy Whitman (and one wonders if the Whitman is a throwback to the show mentioned earlier), in the beaches of southern California, (specifically, Sela Del Mar) struggling to find her way after going to Vassar. The novel is a book in three parts, and the first shows Suzy undergoing a series of bad experiences and a lack of direction before she decides to follow her sister Grace into the sky to become a stewardess, or “stew” for Grand Pacific airlines. Well, there’s more to it than that as she is also a drug mule for a local named Billy Zar, but the second and major part of the book is about Suzy (and Grace) and their experience of flying.
Like any good novel, Riley finds a powerful authorial voice, that of Suzy the first-person narrator. It is not easy for a male author to write a woman, (seems to be easier the other way around), but Riley nails it, as Suzy is believable and formidable, at least until one remembers that the skyjacking of the 1970’s and specifically D.B. Cooper looms large. The third part brings the title and the major idea into full focus, but the entire experience is a journey worth boarding in time for summer.
Fly Me was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased from your friendly independent bookseller or other fine bookstores.