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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Wingwalkers by Taylor Brown

Brown's signature immersive details and wonderfully imagined, rich characters bring Depression-era scenes to life against an irresistible backdrop of swooping, soaring, daring aviation in Wingwalkers.

They were over Georgia somewhere, another nameless hamlet whose dusty streets lay flocked and trembling with the pink handbills they’d rained from the sky that morning, the ones that announced the coming of DELLA THE DARING DEVILETTE, who would DEFY THE HEAVENS, shining like a DAYTIME STAR, a WING-WALKING WONDER borne upon the wings of CAPTAIN ZENO MARIGOLD, a DOUBLE ACE of the GREAT WAR, who had ELEVEN AERIAL VICTORIES over the TRENCHES OF FRANCE.

What is it about aviation stories and my being so in love with them?

In Taylor Brown's recently published historical fiction novel Wingwalkers, Zeno, a former World War I ace pilot, and Della, his daring wingwalking wife, travel Depression-era America, wowing audiences and inspiring hope in a dark, sober time.

Zeno and Della are vagabonds, putting on shows for small bills and change, scrambling to make enough to fuel their plane, feed their dog, and to hopefully have enough left over to eat meager meals, just enough to keep them going. They're daring, sometimes haunted, broken, in love, and irresistible to read about.

She wanted to rip the weights from his chest, the heavy stones he carried, blacked by the great fire of his heart.

Brown offers another parallel storyline tracking the frustrated would-be pilot and burgeoning author Bill (William) Faulkner, his three beloved brothers, his lost loves, his torment and motivation, and his struggles and successes. When the characters from the two rich stories that make up Wingwalkers briefly intersect, it's fantastic.

Wingwalkers shines through immersive descriptions offered in signature Taylor Brown style, including glimpses of Depression-era America both from the sky and at close range; vivid moments placing these wonderfully wrought characters solidly in place and time; and various views of a broken landscape that perfectly mirrors the dashed dreams of so many during grim times. The Depression's dark effects on the country contrast dramatically with the majestic, gutsy aviation at the heart of the story, which boosts the stubborn hopes of those who allow themselves to be inspired.

"Stories," she said. Sometimes she could hardly believe her own. Sometimes she wondered if she held the threads of her own story or if there were another hand out there, unseen--god or author or fate--pulling the strings and banshee wires of their world. Or no one, only the wind. Sometimes she wondered if they were not haunted but haints themselves, turning endless circles over the land, performing the same acts over and over, replaying the same deaths--unable to move on.

Wingwalkers swoops and soars yet grounds the reader in wonderfully imagined (and researched) details that bring the story to life. I loved this book!

I received a prepublication digital edition of this book courtesy of St. Martin's Press and NetGalley.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Taylor is also the author of Gods of Howl Mountain, a book I loved and gave five stars, Pride of Eden (a book still on my to-read list that looks wonderful), and Fallen Land, a title I loved and included in the Greedy Reading List Six Great Historical Fiction Stories about the Civil War. (If you’re not on the Taylor Brown train yet, may I strongly suggest you join me?)

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