Two new novels exploring the mystery of Amelia Earhart's last flight might seem one too many in the same publishing season, but Anderson's book and Jane Mendelsohn's I Was Amelia Earhart (LJ 4/1/96) unexpectedly complement each other. More or less picking up where Mendelsohn leaves off, Anderson opens in the 1970s, when Robin and Lucy, a young couple fleeing suburbia, are stranded near an uncharted Pacific island after their boat is damaged. Their well-hidden observer has lived alone on the island for more than 40 years after surviving an air crash, the disappearance of her flight companion, near-execution by Japanese soldiers, and abandonment by the one visitor who might have brought word of her to the outside. Even as she leaves clues of her existence for the young couple to ponder, she debates the wisdom of revealing herself to a world utterly different from the one she left so abruptly in 1937. Good summer reading; for most public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/96.]Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va.
Yet another novelalso a debutabout the secret life of Amelia Earhart after the crash (see Jane Mendelsohn's I Was Amelia Earhart, p. 252).
This time, we get two stories for the price of one, since the narrative concerns itself not only with Earhart's putative survival as the solitary inhabitant of an uncharted Pacific atoll but with the fate of a much younger American couple whose sailboat goes aground on the very same shore. Earhart functions here as a kind of beachcomber Thoreau, calmly recording the meager events of the day in her journal and gradually becoming resigned to her lonely fate: "I have lived on my memories, after all," she reflects. "I have read them over and over like books unworn by time, unchanged because my perspective so rarely changes." Robin and Lucy, however, were having problems getting along even during their cruise, and after the shipwreck they bear up to their new circumstances with all the good grace of a couple of yuppies who take the wrong interchange and find themselves lost in the inner city. Implausibly enough, Earhart is still living when they arrive (in the late 1970s), but she keeps apart, spying on the couple as they argue, make love on the beach, repair the ship, and get ready to set off. She considers confronting them but holds backuntil Lucy discovers Earhart's footprint on the beach, and she and Robin nearly kill themselves looking for her. Along the way, we learn about the catastrophe that stranded Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on the atoll during their ill-fated 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe, the inevitable love affair the two finally gave themselves over to, Fred's demise, and Earhart's early,pathetic, doomed attempts to escape. The resolution, in which nothing is resolved, leaves Earhart at home on her island while Robin and Lucy return to their unhappy lives in the larger world they came from.
Beautifully written and controlled but ultimately pointless: a splendid exercise with no central theme.