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The Pilot's Wife (Oprah's Book Club) [Paperback]

Anita Shreve
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (912 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 30 1999 Oprah's Book Club
A pilot's wife is taught to be prepared for the late-night knock at the door. But when Kathryn Lyons receives word that a plan flown by her husband, Jack, has exploded near the coast of Ireland, she confronts the unfathomable-one startling revelation at a time. Soon drawn into a maelstrom of publicity fueled by rumors that Jack led a secret life, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was, whatever that knowledge might cost. Her search propels this taut, impassioned novel as it movingly explores the question, How well can we ever really know another person?

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From Amazon

Oprah Book Club® Selection, March 1999: With five novels to her credit, including the acclaimed The Weight of Water, Anita Shreve now offers a skillfully crafted exploration of the long reach of tragedy in The Pilot's Wife. News of Jack Lyons's fatal crash sends his wife into shock and emotional numbness:
Kathryn wished she could manage a coma. Instead, it seemed that quite the opposite had happened: She felt herself to be inside of a private weather system, one in which she was continuously tossed and buffeted by bits of news and information, sometimes chilled by thoughts of what lay immediately ahead, thawed by the kindness of others ... frequently drenched by memories that seemed to have no regard for circumstance or place, and then subjected to the nearly intolerable heat of reporters, photographers and curious on-lookers. It was a weather system with no logic, she had decided, no pattern, no progression, no form.
The situation becomes even more dire when the plane's black box is recovered, pinning responsibility for the crash on Jack. In an attempt to clear his name, Kathryn searches for any and all clues to the hours before the flight. Yet each discovery forces her to realize that she didn't know her husband of 16 years at all. Shreve's complex and highly convincing treatment of Kathryn's dilemma, coupled with intriguing minor characters and an expertly paced plot, makes The Pilot's Wife really take off.


Reading Anita Shreve's novel, The Pilot's Wife, is like unraveling a thread. From the moment Kathryn Lyons answers the late-night knock at her door, she and the reader set upon a course that leads to a surprising revelation - that Kathryn's life is not what she thought it was....

Her search leads her not only to some answers, but to a realization - that the possibility is slim of ever fully knowing those we love, even those we love the most. -- BookPage, Laura Wexler, May 1998

Shreve's sixth novel tells us the story of Kathryn, whose husband, Jack, flies commercial aircraft. Their family, including 15-year-old Mattie, revolves around the schedules and demands of Jack's job....

Despite its dramatic theme, "The Pilot's Wife" is a bit flat and careful. Kathryn is the main problem. Shreve makes her an appealing believable woman, but one more acted upon than acting. Kathryn does indeed change, but not until so late in the narrative that our sense of her essentially remains static....

As always, Shreve has written an expert and highly readable book. It is a measure of her talent that her longtime readers expect even more. -- Rebecca Radner, San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 1998

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Are wives really that dumb and blind? June 26 2004
This would have been a better book if the protagonist (the pilot's wife) wasn't so unbelievably stupid. She and her husband essentially lead separate lives, for years. This is because of his job as a pilot (supposedly). She just goes with the flow and never stops to think if things should really be THAT separate. So....She is easily deceived on a consistent basis, and for a long period of time...yet was totally surprised when the truth was revealed after her husband dies. Real, average women aren't that stupid.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I read it in one sitting June 3 2004
The Pilot's Wife is an insightful tale of loss and betrayal. As the story opens, Kathryn, a pilot's wife, has been told that her husband's plane has crashed and there are no survivors. We follow Kathryn into the numbing, silent, surreal world known to those who suffer loss. Memories of her happy marriage engulf her and paralyze her, but she begins to cope with the help of a kind man from the pilot's union. In the second half of the book, Kathryn pieces together clues left by her husband that lead to shocking revelations about him, and eventually, the healing process begins.
The first half of the book was an accurate picture of one in the grieving process; unfortunately, it was too long and became somewhat tedious. The second half, however, was very exciting, and I could hardly turn the pages fast enough to see what would happen next. The climax is quite satisfying and made me glad I stuck with it and finished the book.
The Pilot's Wife would make an excellent movie, with lots of romance, tragedy and intrigue. If you like stories that are full of surprises, you'll enjoy this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An insipid story June 24 2004
While reading Shreve's work, I felt as if I was watching a bad made-for-TV-movie. The plot is quite trite and the prose a bore. It is a quick read, though, for anyone who has bought this book, it should be regarded as a sunk cost and quickly cast aside.
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4.0 out of 5 stars How Well Do You Know Your Spouse? Jan. 3 2008
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Pilot's Wife looks at that common subject of modern fiction, alienation that separates nonreligious from one another. Of course, many people feel like they are married to (or living with) a soul mate who is closely bonded into an understanding symbiosis of two. About half the time, someone must be wrong in that belief because about half of all marriages (and more than that of live-in relationships) hit the rocks.

Anita Shreve chooses an unusual way to display the reality of alienation, by having one spouse die while the other is presented with a mystery about what the other person was thinking and doing. Do spouses keep secrets from one another? Sure. In this case, the secrets undermine the sense of security that heroine Kathryn Lyons used to have in her marriage.

The story opens with the kind of situation that Stephen King so likes to present, Kathryn is awakened by knocking on the door in the middle of the night while her husband is away flying commercially for a major airline. She reluctantly opens the door to be greeted by Robert Hart, from her husband's union, to tell her husband's plane has been lost. Within seconds, she is in the middle of a public relations maelstrom as the media begin their feeding frenzy to show the public horror-stricken grief. Kathryn has to remain strong; she still has a daughter at home to protect.

As the nightmare becomes increasingly real, Ms. Shreve drops other nasty surprises into Kathryn's lap until she's so weighed down by the weight of adversity that she can barely move. Each time she thinks it is as bad as it can get, it gets worse.

The plot in this story is quite strong, giving us a chance to get to know who Kathryn is. From that point of view, the book is very successful.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Critical Review May 25 2004
By sarah
Award winning writer, Anita Shreve, does it again with A Pilot's Wife. She got the idea for the book from overhearing a pilot at a cocktail party talking about how the union always gets to the wife first when the plane goes down. It's their job to keep her from talking to the press. From this everyday small talk, Shreve put together another acclaimed novel.
This suspense/drama starts off full throttle with a knock at Kathryn's door. The man at the door (the union man) informs her of her husband's death. What little information is known suggests that Kathryn's husband, Jack, committed suicide, taking 103 others with him. She struggles to deal with his death and starts to investigate herself; for her sake as well as her daughter's. What she discovers causes her to question how well you can really know a person.
Shreve masterfully created a complex storyline that doesn't disappoint. It introduces a new type of suspense; one based more on emotional battles than fear. She explores the emotional struggles of a person who has lost a loved one in a tragic event and she does it in such a way that the reader is drawn into the struggle with them. She allows for the reader to experience firsthand the internal conflicts of such a tragedy, which makes for a more personal drama.
These elements keep the plot moving and the reader guessing, which makes The Pilot's Wife impossible to put down. It's the first novel that I've read in only a few days. I put off homework, television, and sleep all for the sake of reaching the conclusion. The end is well worth the commitment too. Shreve set up a wonderful plotline and finished it off even better. She gave enough foreshadowing to keep you guessing without a hint towards the grand finale. This novel that I had never heard of, by an author I had never heard of, makes me want to read all of Anita Shreve's novels.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting read
My first advice, don't read this while travelling on an airplane. The descriptions and imagery are vivid. The characters compelling, sympathetic and realistic. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MysteryReader
3.0 out of 5 stars Faces readers with the ugly realities of life's unknowns
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve has been on my to-read shelf for a long time. I first read Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve back in high school and loved it. Read more
Published 8 months ago by aloveofreading
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing twists
Well written, page turner...had the entire book read in 2 days. Such a great story. Already looking for more books by this author.
Published 12 months ago by Kelly Lacey
2.0 out of 5 stars Very boring predictable read
I kind of knew what I was getting myself into considering the less than stellar reviews, but as an advanced reader, I found this book to be so boring, I skipped over most of it and... Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2012 by amazonaddict
4.0 out of 5 stars Very absorbing
This was my introduction to Anita Shreve's books. I certainly loved it and went on to buy others. This is the gripping story of that infamous "knock at the door" and what happens... Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2007 by I LOVE BOOKS
3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable but somewhat captivating
This novel is the perfect book to bring to the beach or on summer vacation. It is an easy read and holds the reader's attention. Read more
Published on May 29 2004 by Rachel Cash
3.0 out of 5 stars A Ride on an Emotional Roller Coaster
The Pilot's Wife was overall a good book. As a reader one experiences the ride of Kathryn's emotional roller coaster-the pain, sorrow, grief, anger, and resolution. Read more
Published on May 23 2004 by Elise
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh! Please!
This book was so predictable that I could not stand it!!! Give me a break!
Published on May 16 2004 by snowblaze
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