When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge is the type of novel that engulfs you as you read the story. I felt immersed in the story of Jess, a single mother and a policewoman whose lifelong dream was to be on the police force. Her father was a policeman and it was all she ever dreamed of for her future. That future included marrying young and having a daughter, Nina, who she ended up putting second to her career without quite realizing it. Jess is divorced, estranged from her daughter and grandson and lonely. She is the type of police officer that always plays by the book and follows the rules. Until she is involved in the search for a young girl in the Oregon Woods. Jess and other officers find the girl living in the woods with her father, an Iraq War Vet. Lindy, the young girl and her father have created a safe haven for themselves in the woods.
This is not the way a "normal" family lives in our society. The book challenges you as a reader to think abut what is "normal" when you're dealing with post traumatic stress from being in the Iraq War and finding the need to protect your own child from the world. The laws and social rules of how a family with a child should live forces the Sergeant in charge to make decisions that would separate Lindy from her father. Jess connects to Lindy as a mother would and understands the pain and damage of being separated from a child you love. In an instant, Jess makes a choice that she has never done, she's gone against the rules and she believes that she is doing the right thing. What follows is the aftermath of that decision and how it affects both Lindy and her father and Jess and her own daughter Nina.
When She Flew is full of action from the start and the strength of the plot is truly original and heartwarming. The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Jess and Lindy who is 13 years old and steals your heart with her innocence and wisdom. Lindy loves nature as she lives in the woods and is fascinated by the birds that surround her. The birds are a metaphor to Lindy and to the readers, one that you will learn as you read this book. The title and quote at the beginning of the story shed light to its meaning. She is devoted to her father who she adores and loves and who has her best interests at heart, although they may be different than the norm.
Jennie Shortridge has shared (on her website and in the conversation guide at the back of the book)that When She Flew was inspired by true events that occurred in 2004, when a Vietnam War Vet was found living in an Oregon forest with his young daughter. I found that Ms. Shortridge did an amazing job with this idea and turned it into a fictionalized way to explore issues in our society and families. It made me think as a reader, about those living outside traditional norms and how hard that must be for them. Those who are homeless and want to keep their families together and must live in shelters, the streets or even in the woods. It's not easy either way as there are many issues that they must face. What is best for the family or for society? It's not an easy choice to make. I love reading a book and being challenged to think about these types of issues that are outside of my everyday world. I found When She Flew to challenge me, entertain me and I didn't want to put the book down. I liked that the ending was not what was expected or predictable. I found myself closing the book, still thinking about this beautiful story and the strong characters it enveloped. The story continues to linger in my mind in a soft and subtle way.
This would make an excellent book to discuss with a book club and one that I will be recommending to my own book club. There are so many themes to discuss such as family, social relationships,parent child relationships, homelessness, war veterans, raising a child, and so much more. There is a Reading Group Guide which includes a conversation with Jennie at the back of the book and on Jennie's website, here.
This is the first book that I've read by Jennie Shortridge and I have two others (Eating Heaven and Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe) lined up on my bookshelf to read next. I look forward to the adventure.
*Ms. Shortridge has graciously offered to send one lucky reader a SIGNED, copy of When She Flew. I will have a seperate post to sign up for this giveaway, CLICK HERE FOR GIVEAWAY DETAILS TO ENTER.
- To read more about Jennie Shortridge and her books, check out her website, here.
- For a Reading Group Guide and interview, go here.
- To read an excerpt, or listen to Jennie read the prologue go here.
Disclosure: Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Jennie Shortridge for providing me with a signed copy of this book for review. I am an Amazon Associate.