I finished reading this novel two hours ago. Immediately I uttered an expletive and hove the book at the wall. It exploded in a burst of pages and this time I couldn't fault the binding.
I had practically shredded the pages while reading, my involuntary reaction to the story's tension and suspense.
I'd like to think that author Darren Hynes would be pleased with my reaction. I'd forgotten that ‘Flight’ was just a book, artfully arranged words on paper; I'd forgotten that the main character, Emily Gyles, wasn't real.
Whoa-up the ponies!
Did I say ‘just’ a book? Did I say Emily wasn't ‘real’?
Of course she's real. The transcendent magic of words on paper has made her real. At the end of the novel the wrench in my gut was not for some imaginary, fictional character, but for Emily, a woman as real as ... well, real as any woman whose worries had been with her "longer than her children."
It was for Emily I pitched my book against the wall.
A couple of years ago my daughter and Missus roped me in to going to listen to a keynote speaker at a local function.
The very phrase ‘keynote speaker’ automatically becalmed my brain in some lack-of-interest doldrums.
But, because I'm a milquetoast with the backbone of Walter Mitty – and, of course, to spend quality time with chick and child – I hi-de-hoed off to the hall and found a seat.
The speaker was Brain Vallée. P'raps you've heard of him. I hadn't, but he's kinda famous. He's the author of ‘Life With Billy’, the true story of a battered woman, and also of a more recent book called ‘The War on Women’.
Surprisingly, his talk on domestic violence – a phrase he claims is a euphemistic misnomer – poleaxed me. As one of the few men in the audience, by the end of his talk I was oddly ashamed to be a man, ashamed to belong to the male gender – some of whose members constantly wage war on women.
‘Flight’ is a novel about an abused wife.
Emily Gyles needs to escape the brutality of her husband, a man whose violence has transformed Emily from the girl she once was to "A woman perpetually glancing over her shoulder although no one's there, who weighs less but treads heavier, who sometimes has trouble lifting her eyes from the floor."
The island community of Lightning Cove is fixing to die; the fish plant is shutting down; laid-off workers are flying off to the tar sands.
Kent Gyles is a union representative who, despite the union's inability to save the fish plant, is, for the most part, respected by the plant workers.
Few people in Lightning Cove are aware of Kent's abusiveness and, as is so frustratingly often the case, refuse to believe it when it is identified. Even Emily's mother who witnessed Kent's violence early in her daughter's marriage, now thinks things are fine. She believes "All that men like Kent need is a strong woman."
The action of ‘Flight’ is compressed into five days, Monday through Friday. On Friday, using the money and plane tickets she has had stashed beneath a floor board for ages, Emily plans to take her two children – Lynette and Jeremy – and flee Lightning Cove.
Her basic plan is to reach Gander airport and fly to Vancouver.
As we all know, invariably our plans go awry.
While dealing insightfully with Emily's plight, Darren Hynes has done a dandy job of creating suspense in ‘Flight’. As incidents occur to complicate Emily's escape plan, including Emily's own decent into violence – violence begets violence! – readers will be on the edges of their seats, rooting for Emily and cursing the obstacles she's forced to hurdle.
As I read the final pages, I wasn't on the metaphorical edge of my seat. I was bolt upright in my La-Z-Boy, not casually slouched in full recline.
I'd forgotten I was merely reading a book. I'm not sure I was even seeing words on the page. On reflection, I think I was assimilating the story on some preternatural, primitive level, on some level that generated a primal scream and caused me to hurl my book.
Thank you for reading. Thank you, Darren Hynes, for taking me beyond the page.