If you’ve been following my posts for the past few weeks, it is more than likely you are familiar with the fact that I’ve been on a quest to find The Girls of 2017. It’s not that The Girls was my favorite book of all time, but it was engaging and twisty, and provided insight into an era I’m fascinated with yet was not alive to see: simply put, it was the perfect summer read.
When Goop posted their annual Summer Reading Guide in May, they touted Daniel Riley’s Fly Me as “fascinating, intense, and passionately told, at times reminding us of another coming-of-age story, Emma Cline’s The Girls.” I pre-ordered it immediately, and am thrilled to report that it not only offered up similar vibes to The Girls, it was also markedly better. As fate would have it, my Facebook memories have informed me that I finished the girls 1 year ago to this day! Quelle coincidence!
Fly Me takes place, for the most part, between the coastal California town of Sela del Mar and the friendly skies. The year is 1972, and, after graduating from a Vassar-Yale dual-degree program, Suzy Whitman decides to follow in her older sister Grace’s footsteps and take a job as a stewardess (“stew”). Suzy establishes a home base in the coastal California town of Sela del Mar, where Grace and her husband also live. At first, Suzy is in awe of the contented, casual lifestyle and local’s cavalier attitude towards the rest of world, but she soon finds herself involved with the wrong crowd. Before she knows it, Suzy has somehow become the trans-national drug mule for Sela del Mar’s local, irresistibly charming dealer, prized for her immunity from bag checks as a stewardess. As the intensity of the trips begins to escalate, so too do the “skyjackings”* prominent during the era, threatening increased security measures that would spell ruin for Suzy and her Sela cronies.
The book was the perfect mixture of thought-provoking messages about morality and mortality (the relationship between Suzy and her father is so raw and real, and by far one of my favorite father-daughter relationships I’ve ever read), incredible California/1970s visuals (what I love about Riley’s writing is that he doesn’t appear to trying particularly hard to convey the look and feel of 1970s California, but, as Manhattan Beach native, he simply does it. Nothing about it is forced, and I found myself visualizing every scene in the book without realizing I was doing it), and page-turning suspense. Even some of the greatest books can’t keep my attention through the end. Fly Me had me hooked through the last page—instead of one of those boring situations where the ending neatly ties it all up, some of Fly Me’s most intense and unexpected action occurs in the final pages, and the last line, “…where is it you wanna go?” leaves lots open to interpretation for the reader.
Daniel Riley, I cannot wait to see what’s next.
*Those close to me are well aware of my 1960s-1970s obsession. While I live vicariously through the following Instagram accounts and my personal Pinterest board, unfortunately, I was not there, so I contacted my primary source, the venerable Paul Barnett (my dad), who was alive during said era, for verification regarding “skyjacking.” He assured me that this phenomenon, in which plane’s passengers would inform stews that they had a gun or a bomb or force the pilot to land the plane somewhere specific (often times it was Havana), was very real.
Suzy and Grace are originally from Schuyler Glen, New York. As soon as the book mentioned Watkins Glen, I raised my eyebrows. Who the fuck knows about Watkins Glen? When Suzy mentions her father is an engineer at Glass Works, I cornered the page. When one of the Whitmans refers to summers at Keuka, my jaw dropped, and I texted my entire family, before tweeting at the author “is Schuyler Glen based on Corning?” He responded in the affirmative. My mom grew up in Corning, my grandpa was an engineer at Corning Glass, and, I have spent from one week to two months at Keuka every single summer of my life—until this year, as we just sold our house. The fact that the first summer ever that I won’t be able to head up to the lake coincided with the first time in my life I’ve seen it referenced in literature? Felt like a nice little sign.
Hate Reading, Love the 1970s? Try these…
LISTEN TO… Brown Sugar. If nothing else, Mick’s dancing will give you life.
WATCH…Dazed and Confused. Yes, it’s from 1993. But it’ll take you right back.
Already read it? Check these out…
Life by Keith Richards. (The wildest biography I’ve ever read. Alternate title: I Shouldn’t Be Alive Right Now…)