Melanie Benjamin is a pseudonym for Melanie Hauser, who has written two contemporary novels. She is the author of the nationally bestselling Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Benjamin lives in Chicago, where she is at work on her next historical novel.
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Excerpt from book:
Benjamin / THE AVIATOR'S WIFE
Down to earth.
I repeated the phrase to myself, whispering it in wonder. Down to earth. What a plodding expression, really, when you considered it—I couldn’t help but think of muddy fields and wheel ruts and worms—yet people always meant it as a compliment.
“ ‘Down to earth’—did you hear that, Elisabeth? Can you believe Daddy would say that about an aviator, of all people?”
“I doubt he even realized what he was saying,” my sister murmured as she scribbled furiously on her lap desk, despite the rocking motion of the train. “Now, Anne, dear, if you’d just let me finish this letter . . .”
“Of course he didn’t,” I persisted, refusing to be ignored. This was the third letter she’d written today! “Daddy never does know what he’s saying, which is why I love him. But honestly, that’s what his letter said—‘I do hope you can meet Colonel Lindbergh. He’s so down to earth!’ ”
“Well, Daddy is quite taken with the colonel. . . .”
“Oh, I know—and I didn’t mean to criticize him! I was just thinking out loud. I wouldn’t say anything like that in person.” Suddenly my mood shifted, as it always seemed to do whenever I was with my family. Away from them, I could be confident, almost careless, with my words and ideas. Once, someone even called me vivacious (although to be honest, he was a college freshman intoxicated by bathtub gin and his first whiff of expensive perfume).
Whenever my immediate family gathered, however, it took me a while to relax, to reacquaint myself with the rhythm of speech and good-natured joshing that they seemed to fall into so readily. I imagined that they carried it with them, even when we were all scattered; I fancied each one of them humming the tune of this family symphony in their heads as they went about their busy lives.
Like so many other family traits—the famous Morrow sense of humor, for instance—the musical gene appeared to have skipped me. So it always took me longer to remember my part in this domestic song and dance. I’d been traveling with my sister and brother on this Mexican-bound train for a week, and still I felt tongue-tied and shy. Particularly around Dwight, now a senior at Groton; my brother had grown paler, prone to strange laughing fits, almost reverting to childhood at times, even as physically he was fast maturing into a carbon copy of our father.
Elisabeth was the same as ever, and I was the same as ever around her; no longer a confident college senior, I was diminished in her golden presence. In the stale air of the train car, I felt as limp and wrinkled as the sad linen dress I was wearing. While she looked as pressed and poised as a mannequin, not a wrinkle or smudge on her smart silk suit, despite the red dust blowing in through the inadequate windows.
“Now, don’t go brooding already, Anne, for heaven’s sake! Of course you wouldn’t criticize Daddy to his face—you, of all people! There!” Elisabeth signed her letter with a flourish, folded it carefully, and tucked it in her pocket. “I’ll wait until later before I address it. Just think how grand it will look on the embassy stationery!”
“Who are you writing thi“The history is exhilarating. . . . The Aviator’s Wife soars. . . . Anne Morrow Lindbergh narrates the story of the Lindberghs’ troubled marriage in all its triumph and tragedy.”—USA Today
“Remarkable . . . The Aviator’s Wife succeeds [in] putting the reader inside Anne Lindbergh’s life with her famous husband.”—The Denver Post
“[This novel] will fascinate history buffs and surprise those who know of her only as ‘the aviator’s wife.’ ”—People
“It’s hard to quit reading this intimate historical fiction.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Fictional biography at its finest.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Utterly unforgettable.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An intimate examination of the life and emotional mettle of Anne Morrow.”—The Washington Post
“A story of both triumph and pain that will take your breath away.”—Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
“Melanie Benjamin inhabits Anne Morrow Lindbergh completely, freeing her from the shadows of her husband’s stratospheric fame.”—Isabel Wolff, author of A Vintage Affair
From the Hardcover edition.