4 out of 4 stars
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The first thing that I wanted to do after I finished reading this book was to purchase a physical copy and put it on a bookshelf for my daughters to read when they're a little bit older as a reminder that women can do and be anything. I am fighting the urge to get too personal here, as this story awakened a part of me that I had almost forgotten. Flying Jenny by Theasa Tuohy means more to me than I can explain.
It is 1929. The Charleston is the favorite dance, prohibition is in full throttle, women have had the right to vote for nine years, the Wright brothers succeeded in their first brief flight twenty-six years prior, and Amelia Earhart is still eight years away from what will be her catastrophic attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world. Laura Bailey is a New York City tabloid reporter who was brought up in a bohemian household by a single mother, and Jenny Flynn is a stunt pilot from Oklahoma City who stems from a wealthy, traditional family. These women are challenging and redefining gender roles and defying the social norms of the 1920s in the United States.
As a female reporter in the 1920s, Laura Bailey does not get the best beats - tea parties and obituaries are usually the stories she is given to cover. On scene to see firsthand if a stunt pilot can manage to fly under all four bridges that cross from Manhattan to Queens, she is surprised to find that the daredevil flyer is actually a woman – Jenny Flynn. Now she is being sent to Cleveland to cover the cross-the-country air race, at least the female aspect of it, and this is where she runs into Jenny Flynn and gets pulled in with Jenny and her friends while seeking an interview. As she bonds with the group, she gets her own taste of daredevil flying as a passenger on Jenny's stunt flights as Jenny performs in a few shows as a favor for her friend, Roy. They seem like two women who couldn't be more different, yet they are startling in their similarities. What starts as almost a feud between Laura and Jenny, turns into a dazzling friendship. The duo encourages one another to explore new territories, push boundaries, and stand up for themselves in a male-dominated society. Jenny also becomes wrapped up in Laura's quest to find out the truth about her birth father.
Trying to find negatives in Flying Jenny is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. As far as fact checking goes, the author is accurate with all the historical information she includes down to the name of Amelia Earhart's publicist. Even the language was appropriate for New Yorkers in the 1920s. I noticed a couple of small spelling errors that appear to be overlooked typos such as the name of the photographer, Cheesy, spelled as Chessy. Without a doubt, however, this book has been professionally edited. For the superb prose, the almost faultless editing, and the emotion-stirring narrative, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
This story is for everyone, but the feminist crowd will probably appreciate it the most. I do think there are men, especially those who like historical fiction, who will enjoy this story. Because there is some technical jargon as well as a couple of sexual innuendos, this book is not for young readers – high school, possibly even middle school, and up is probably best. I am going to say something I thought I never would: This story has been added to my list of top five favorite books of all time. It has been placed in the ranks of works by Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. When I completed this narrative, I had tears in my eyes and a new spark in my spirit.
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