I turned to give Sweetie-pie one last look. She was watching me, and blinked twice before closing her eyes and swiveling her head away from me. Everything about a bird is made for flight: the way they breathe, the shape and design of their bodies, their weight. I wished I could fly, but even if I were covered with feathers, I would not be able to avoid gravity. – from When She Flew, page 66 –
Lindy, a 13 year old girl, is living in a forested Oregon park with her father. Pater has served time in Iraq and suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but despite his challenges he is devoted to his daughter and focused on protecting her….from her drug addicted mother and the mean urban streets where crime is rampant. Far from being homeless (Pater has constructed a tree house, cultivates a garden and has arranged the water flow from nearby creek in order to have bathing facilities), Lindy and her father are living their lives off the land…traveling into town periodically to borrow library books and attend church. But when a group of birders spots Lindy in the woods, a full-blown search is mounted to “save” her.
Jess Villareal is one of the police officers on the search team…and she brings her own personal history along with her. Divorced and mostly estranged from her daughter and young grandson, Jess finds herself identifying with Lindy’s situation and is determined to help her, even if it means going against orders and breaking the law.
Jennie Shortridge’s fourth novel is a quick, compelling read. Written in the alternating viewpoints of Jess and Lindy and based on the true story of a war veteran and his young daughter found living in a wooded park in Portland, Oregon in 2004, When She Flew wastes no time in immersing the reader in the dramatic plot. Shortridge brings her characters to life on the page – revealing their desires, faults and motivations effortlessly. I found her style easy to read and poignantly realistic.
The novel delves into several themes: the misunderstandings which surround homelessness, the plight of war veterans suffering from PTSD, how we define ‘good’ parenting, and the broader issues around human and social relationships, including love, loss and healing from trauma. Shortridge’s ability to explore these themes without getting preachy or long-winded made me an instant fan of her work. Too often novelists take on big subjects and forget about the characters. When She Flew is all about the characters…especially the female characters who discover themselves by taking risks and being willing to defy the weight of social expectations and ‘fly.’
This was my first novel by Jennie Shortridge, but it will not be my last. I found her writing accessible and relevant, but most of all enjoyable. When She Flew will appeal to those readers who love well-developed characters and quickly paced plots.
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FTC Disclosure: This review copy was provided to me by the publisher through TLC Book Tours. My review is based on my HONEST opinion of the book. I received no compensation for my review other than the book itself.