January 14

Go Set a Watchman and The Pilot’s Wife


Harper Lee is masterful at weaving a story. “Go Set a Watchman” was almost as good as “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It is a coming-of-age novel in which the 26-year-old Jean Louise, whom we remember as Scout, returns to her home in Maycomb, Alabama, for her yearly two-week visit with her father, Atticus. Now a resident of New York, she is shocked by the change in her father, the town and the people in it. She confronts the new South racked by the tensions of the civil rights movement.

Scout finds her father, known for his intelligence and goodwill to all, attending a citizens council and hobnobbing with members of the Ku Klux Klan. Feeling betrayed by her father, the rest of her family, the town she grew up in, as well as Henry, the young man who wants to marry her but is considered “trash” by her aunt, she listens to an uncle who tells her truths are guided by the conscience.

Plagued with crippling arthritis, Atticus is dependent on Henry, who is somewhat of a protégé of his and is now a different man from the father Scout knew. However, she learns he has not fallen from his pedestal of integrity.

Incidentally, the title of the book comes from the sixth verse of the 21st chapter of Isaiah in the Bible, “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, ‘Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.’”
I don’t often read a book twice, but Anita Shreve’s “The Pilot’s Wife” is an exception. I read it in the late 1990s when it first came out, then again recently in one of my book clubs.

It is quite a read with the heroine, Kathryn Lyons, displaying tremendous courage in trying to investigate a plane crash, in which her husband is held responsible as the pilot.

Amidst rumors that the pilot may have attempted to commit suicide and suggestions that his crash was premeditated, his widow searches for answers. Kathryn travels to the Irish Coast to survey the crash site and to London, where the pilot was discovered to have a secret life.

While trying to protect their 15-year-old daughter and their comfortable life in the mill town of her childhood, Kathryn has to re-examine her marriage and her life. A high school teacher, she loves her home by the ocean and the life they had lived up to this point.

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