Excerpt from The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Aviator's Wife

By Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2013,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2013,
    448 pages.

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"Yes, Colonel Lindbergh is still here—?­oh, my dear, you should have seen the crowds at the airfield when he arrived! Two hours late, but nobody minded a bit. That plane, what's it called, the Ghost of St. Louis, isn't it—­"

Con began to giggle helplessly, and I suppressed a smile.

"It's the Spirit of St. Louis," I corrected her, and my mother met my gaze with a bemused expression in her downward-­slanted eyes. I felt myself blush, knowing what she was thinking. Anne? Swooning for the dashing young hero, just like all the other girls? Who could have imagined?

"Yes, of course, the Spirit of St. Louis. And the colonel has agreed to spend the holidays with us in the embassy. Your father is beside himself. Mr. Henry Ford has even sent a plane to fetch the colonel's mother, and she'll be here, as well. At dinner, Elisabeth will take special care of him—­oh, and you, too, dear, you must help. To tell the truth, I find the colonel to be rather shy."

"He's ridiculously shy," Con agreed, with another giggle. "I don't think he's ever really talked to girls before!"

"Con, now, please. The colonel's our guest. We must make him feel at home," Mother admonished.

I listened in dismay as I followed her into the second car; Daddy, Dwight, and Elisabeth roared off in the first. The colonel—­a total stranger—­would be part of our family Christmas? I certainly hadn't bargained on that, and couldn't help but feel that it was rude of a stranger to insinuate himself in this way. Yet at the mere mention of his name my heart began to beat faster, my mind began to race with the implications of this unexpected stroke of what the rest of the world would call enormous good luck. Oh, how the girls back at Smith would scream once they found out! How envious they all would be!

Before I could sort out my tangled thoughts, we were being whisked away to the embassy at such a clip I didn't have time to take in the strange, exotic landscape of Mexico City. My only impression was a blur of multicolored lights in the gathering shadows of late afternoon, and bleached-­out buildings punctuated by violent shocks of color. So delightful to think that there were wildflowers blooming in December!

"Is the colonel really as shy as all that?" It seemed impossible, that this extraordinary young man would suffer from such an ordinary affliction, just like me.

"Oh, yes. Talk to him about aviation—­that's really the only way you can get him to say more than 'yes,' 'no,' and 'pass the salt,'?" Mother said. Then she patted me on my knee. "Now, how was your last term? Aren't you glad you listened to reason af- ter all, when you thought you wanted to go to Vassar? Now you're almost through, almost a Smith graduate, just like Elisabeth and me!"

I smiled, looked at my shoes—­caked with the dust of travel—­and nodded, although my mouth was set in a particular prickly way, my only outward sign of rebellion. After almost four years, I still wished I'd been allowed to go to Vassar, as I'd so desperately wanted.

But I swallowed my annoyance and dutifully recited grades and small academic triumphs, even as my mind raced ahead of the two sleek embassy cars. Colonel Lindbergh. I hadn't counted on meeting him so soon—?­or at all, really. I'd thought his visit was merely an official stop on some grand tour of Latin America and that he'd be gone long before my vacation started. My palms grew clammy, and I wished I'd changed into a nicer frock on the train. I'd never met a hero before. I worried that one of us would be disappointed.

"I can't wait for the colonel to meet Elisabeth," Mother said, as if she could read my thoughts. "Oh, and you, too, dear."

I nodded. But I knew what she meant. My older sister was a beauty—­the beauty, in the parlance of the Morrow family, as if there could be room for only one. She had a porcelain complexion, blond curls, round blue eyes with thick black eyelashes, and a darling of a nose, the master brushstroke that finished off her portrait of a face. Whereas I was all nose, with slanty eyes like Mother's, and dark hair; while I was shorter than Elisabeth, my figure was rounder. Too round, too busty and curvy, for the streamlined flapper fashions that were still all the rage this December of 1927.

Excerpted from The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin. Copyright © 2013 by Melanie Benjamin. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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