This is the story of so many things...of how the impossible is actually possible with persistence, of repairing what's broken--even if it's yourself, of moving on and leaving the past in the past, of how those with Asperger's are so misjudged and misunderstood. And it's the story of Wilbur and Orville's time on Kitty Hawk.
The book mostly follows a young girl--Madeline. She steals the show. Yea, the first flight is a huge deal, but this girl just steals the show. She's unmarried--unusual for the time--and bitter about it, but she doesn't want some stinky coarse sailor. She wants a gentleman. She's forced to be independent and stand her ground. She's spunky, humorous, realistic with flaws and all (there's some depression and substance abuse), caring, and though she's not without fear, she faces them every time.
She falls for Orville--or perhaps, the idea of him, of a gentleman. (That's another theme...Are you in love with the person or in love with the idea of being in love?)
But as she says, Orville is married to his brother, and she can't compete with the desire to be the first to fly. He won't be distracted from his goal.
It's also at times, incredibly funny. The town and its people will having you rolling on the floor laughing. Madeline herself...her thoughts...are humorous.
"He even looks like a bird. And those big ears! If he wants to fly, all he needs to do is learn to flap those things."
"All I hear now is the dog sniffling under the table. Spot sniffs so hard, I imagine those crumbs going up his nose rather than inside his mouth."
"If you drink enough water, you don't know you're hungry."
"But if you drink enough beer, you don't know you're thirsty."
I don't know the first thing about Aspergers's, but after reading this, I feel like I understand the affliction and why those afflicted behave the way they do. Ms. Staley managed to educate me while at the same time entertain me. I have a newfound respect for those who suffer from this. At first I thought Orville was a bit weird...and I had a hard time warming to him, but then the book began to reveal stuff to us. Fear of rejection. Stick with what you're good at...and I understood. I never did warm to his brother Wilbur though. Now that guy just plain irritated me.
I loved Madeline. I loved how she "adopted" a boy, how she stuck up for him when he was bullied, how she dressed as a boy to see Orville, how she carried around a Remington...the list would be endless. I loved the scene with blueberry pie...the tarlike gum. Even the townsfolk grew on me. I was sad when someone died, laughed when they sang ditties.
Quibble: The narrative was tough to follow at times, disjointed. I suspect this was done on purpose though, especially when it was Orville's scenes/thoughts. There were also some instances I didn't know what it was saying--that could be my own ignorance. I had to read some bits over and over again. Also irritating was the word gentle-men and gentle-man. Never seen that hyphenated before and every time I hit one, it was like stumbling while walking.
"Ladies are like elephants. I like looking at them, but I wouldn't necessarily want one."