Summary and book reviews of The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

The Pilot's Wife

by Anita Shreve

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve X
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 1999, 293 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 1999, 293 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Even before the plane is located, the relentless focus on Kathryn's dead husband's life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret?

Who can guess what a woman will do when the unthinkable becomes her reality?

Until now, Kathryn Lyons's life has been peaceful if unextraordinary: a satisfying job teaching high school in the New England mill town of her childhood; a picture-perfect home by the ocean; a precocious, independent-minded fifteen-year-old daughter; and a happy marriage whose occasional dull passages she attributes to the unavoidable deadening effect of time. As a pilot's wife, Kathryn has learned to expect both intense exhilaration and long periods alone--but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock that lets her know her husband has died in a crash.

As Kathryn struggles with her grief, she descends into a maelstrom of publicity stirred up by the modern hunger for the details of tragedy. Even before the plane is located in waters off the Irish coast, the relentless focus on her husband's life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret?

Fighting the impulse to protect herself and her daughter from the details of the crash and the mystery surrounding it, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was--whatever that knowledge may cost. The search will lead her to shocking revelations, testing both the truth of her marriage and the limits of her ability to face it.

From the bestselling author of The Weight of Water, this taut, impassioned novel asks fundamental questions we all have about how well we can really know anyone--even those (or especially those) we love the most. Written with grace and controlled beauty, The Pilot's Wife definitively places Anita Shreve among the ranks of the best novelists writing today.

Prologue

SHE HEARD A KNOCKING, AND THEN A DOG BARKING. Her dream left her, skittering behind a closing door. It had been a good dream, warm and close, and she minded. She fought the waking. It was dark in the small bedroom, with no light yet behind the shades. She reached for the lamp, fumbled her way up the brass, and she was thinking, What? What?

The lit room alarmed her, the wrongness of it, like an emergency room at midnight. She thought, in quick succession: Mattie. Then, Jack. Then, Neighbor. Then, Car accident. But Mattie was in bed, wasn't she? Kathryn had seen her to bed, had watched her walk down the hall and through a door, the door shutting with a firmness that was just short of a slam, enough to make a statement but not provoke a reprimand. And Jack--where was Jack? She scratched the sides of her head, raking out her sleep-flattened hair. Jack was--where? She tried to remember the schedule: London. Due home around lunchtime. She was certain. Or did she have it wrong...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The complex relationship between secrecy and intimacy is an important theme of The Pilot's Wife. Consider the secrets kept by the following characters: Kathryn, Jack, Mattie, Robert, Muire. In each case, what motivates the deceiver? Who is protected and who is harmed by the secret? Can deception ever be an expression of love? Examine the conversation between Kathryn and Mattie on pages 118-119, especially Mattie's question: "But how do you ever know that you know a person?" Is there a more satisfactory answer to this question than the one Kathryn offers?

  2. Does Shreve's use of flashbacks to Jack and Kathryn's marriage reveal the changes occurring between Jack and Kathryn? In what way did Jack and in what way did Kathryn each ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Washington Post Book World - Georgia Jones-Davis
Gripping...You don't want to stop turning the pages once Kathryn has opened her door.

Orlando Sentinel - Susan Hubbard
Compulsively readable....To create both sympathetic characters and an enticing plot is no small feat, but Shreve does it seamlessly.

Houston Chronicle -Mike Snyder
An absorbing, inventive tale rendered in fine, original prose.

The San Diego Union-Tribune - Kate Callen
Kathryn's emotional quest is masterfully rendered....We go where Shreve leads because the writing is so sure.

The San Francisco Chronicle - Rebecca Radner
Highly readable....Shreve is extremely skillful at showing the stages by which someone learns to live with the unthinkable.

Reader Reviews

Teri

The ending of pilots wife
I enjoyed the book until the last few lines. The author should of been more specific. I reread the ending several times and still didn't understand it. I finally had to goggle the ending to understand it.

Kimberly B

The Pilots Wife
I couldn't put the book down. Shreve writes so descriptively and fluidly that its like watching a movie! I was confused with the very last paragraph though: A lottery ticket on the mantelpiece? Where did that come from? I mean, I understand she is...   Read More

Miranda

The Pilot's Wife
“SHE HEARD A KNOCKING AND THEN A DOG BARKING” and in that instant Kathryn Lyons life changed to an unexpected struggle between happiness and reality. Anita Shreve’s fictional masterpiece The Pilot’s Wife is an emotional roller coaster filled with ...   Read More

Jessica

The Pilot's Wife
Once you read The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve you are sure to feel the same as I do. In the early morning hours of 3:24 a.m. Kathryn is awakened only to be told that her husband’s plane has crashed off the coast of Malin Head, Ireland. Now Kathryn ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Anita Shreve

If you liked The Pilot's Wife, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes

Books with similar themes


Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Heavens
    The Heavens
    by Sandra Newman
    I've been a big fan of Sandra Newman's writing ever since reading her 2014 novel The Country of Ice ...
  • Book Jacket: Sugar Run
    Sugar Run
    by Mesha Maren
    Mesha Maren's debut novel is a plunge into the depths of the dark Southern gothic with pulsing and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    American Princess
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Rated 4.9 stars by BookBrowse members - one of the highest scores of all time!
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.