It's summer, 1940. America struggles to survive a devastating depression, and fears being pulled into the war engulfing Europe. Young Gene Stoddard is desperate, torn between his dream of becoming an airline pilot and his reality that the Depression has made that dream impossible. But on a broiling August Sunday, a Stearman biplane pilot descends into his life and shows him a way to live the life of his dream.
Sunday, December 7, 1941. War that seemed so distant, so unreal, suddenly engulfs America, and Gene Stoddard along with it. He soon finds himself at the controls of America’s newest air weapon, the magnificent B-17 Flying Fortress. Flying dangerous missions from jungle bases in the South Pacific, Gene knows that each time he takes off he is gaining valuable experience. He and his good buddy, Mike, imagine themselves flying passengers across America when the war ends.
On a fateful day, Gene volunteers for a "suicide" mission. With no fighters to protect him and his crew, he is attacked by a swarm of enemy planes. Battling against all odds, the mighty Fortress somehow limps back to base. But Captain Stoddard is unconscious, barely alive, from severe wounds. He awakes in a hospital in Sydney. Standing next to him is Mattie, an attractive, young Aussie, a nurses’-aide.
As his wounds begin to heal, he learns his dream is lost. Lucky to be able to walk, he knows he will never fly again. For Eugene Stoddard, a life without flying seems a life hardly worth living. As Mattie assists Gene in recovering from his wounds, as he tries to deal with life as a “has-been pilot,” they fall inexorably in love.
As they try to establish a new life together, Gene finds the emotional loss of his old dream hard to bear, in spite of finding the dream of his life in Mattie. It takes the shock of nearly losing that dream to help Gene learn what truly makes life worth living.
A superb novel with the essential ingredients of an unequaled classic! The in-depth love story is vividly and interestingly entwined with personal, family, state, national and international history before, during and after World War II. The narrative reflects astounding achievements in aviation, the establishment of the Pentagon, and the fathomable faith of an American family during the depression followed by world war. Amidst all that, a young Kansas farm boy with a deep desire and determination to be a pilot reaches for the stars to develop his dream and never gives up, not even after being severely wounded on a mission in the Pacific. He has the love and support of wife, family and friends and an inherent faith. One of the most intrinsic rewards for the reader is the deep-rooted and expansive dialogue. More than a "feel good" story, the narrative is an epitome of excellence which gives credentials to determination and faith in the ever-changing human condition.
I was very impressed with this book. I found it interesting and informative about airplanes in the WWII era and the fighting that went on in the South Pacific; but at the same time, it was a captivating and touching love story. The characters were well developed, making me feel like I knew them and cared about them. The story line flowed easily, never getting bogged down in too much detail. The author made good use of dialogue that always seemed natural and held my interest in the characters and in what was happening in their lives at that moment. Congratulations to author Del Hayes!
This book was a real pleasure to read. It has about everything you could want in a good read The author has captured the essence of the era of small town and rural Kansas in the 1940's. Nostalgia, pathos,history,adventure, romance are all brought into the story. The preface alone gives good insight into the content of the book. The author strives to honor his cousin who was killed in WWII and in my estimation succeeds. If you grew up in this time period in the mid west, you will especially enjoy the nostalgia. I was not aware of this part of the war in the Pacific and learned a good bit of history. Our service men and women and those who supplied the planes and the means to fight the war are truly honored in this author's work.