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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
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****Learning To Fly

A Thriller

by April Henry

Reviewed May 7, 2002.

A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#7, Fiction)
Thomas Dunne Books, 2002.  308 pages.

This book is a self-proclaimed thriller, and a good one.  It starts with a horrible auto accident.  Free Meeker has just picked up a hitchhiker, and then she drives into a dust storm, going full speed.  The resulting pile-up involves 54 cars, and Free barely escapes with her life.  She has the hitchhiker’s purse, and a bag that a desperate and dying young man asked her to retrieve from his car.  Inside the bag is $740,000 and some drugs.

Why is it that there are so many books coming out recently about someone finding a fortune and deciding to keep it?  Is this an American’s biggest dream these days?

Putting such questions aside, I enjoyed this book even more than John Grisham’s similar book, The Summons.  Perhaps I liked it better because this was more of a woman’s thriller, with more of the emotional side of such a situation, and less about the cold details of how you could get that money into usable form.

Free reads in the paper that she is counted among the dead.  She decides to take the money and the identity of the hitchhiker and start a new life.  What she doesn’t know is that the hitchhiker’s husband is not dead, as she was told.  Instead, he is a horribly abusive man who is going to look for his wife.  Not only that, but Free was seen with the bag of drug money, and the drug dealer finds out.  He only has to track her down.

Meanwhile, Free tries to start a new life.  She’s the child of hippies, and all her life wanted only to be like normal people.  A few days before the accident, she found out that she was pregnant and that her boyfriend was not faithful.  Now she’s alone and pregnant in a new city, ready to start a new life.  We find ourselves rooting for Free as she establishes herself and starts learning to care for people and make plans for the baby.  If only the bad guys won’t find her....

If you’re in the mood for a thriller, this is a fun one.  There are some unpleasant situations and people.  The auto accident at the start is chilling.  But all in all, it’s an exciting, yet warm story.  I confess that I kept reading until I finished it at 3 am.

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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