Paperback (also available in hardback, e-book, and audio book formats), 978-0778369226, 384 pgs., $16.99
July 2, 2019
In The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar, many American women during WWII left the home to fill jobs left behind by servicemen. For Audrey Coltrane, flying planes is not only a lifelong dream, it is now her career as she shuns the standard path of love and marriage and answers an ad for flight instructors on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Audrey joins a small group of women with the same passion for flying and opens her heart to friendships she never knew she needed. When December 7, 1941, arrives, everything changes for Audrey, her fellow pilots, the United States, and the world. After returning home to Dallas, Audrey struggles to keep her dream of flying and buying a small airfield alive, eventually answering the call to join an elite group of ladies in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program.
The Flight Girls is Noelle Salazar’s first novel, and it delivers an emotional, enlightening, and incredibly intriguing punch that will leave you contemplating your own determination to dream big and stay the course, even when others question your ability and reason for choosing a path that fits no one’s expectations except your own. While the backdrop is WWII, the main focus is on these womens' courage and fortitude to hold on tight to their desire to fly. Audrey Coltrane is a likable protagonist, but her having a wealthy family often feels a bit too convenient, providing her with a monetary cushion that comes in handy a few times throughout the story. Despite that, Audrey is inspirational because she shows that it is okay to laugh in the face of danger, grieve when death is a thief, and recognize that friendship is the greatest gift. Misogyny is rampant in The Flight Girls; however, that negative male attitude toward women’s audacity to do a man’s job, including flying military aircraft, is expertly balanced with those same women banding together and finding strength in their camaraderie, multi-layered personalities, and commonality as pilots.
The romance between Audrey Coltrane and Lieutenant James Hart is a slow burn, beginning from the first chapter. They experience the magnetic pull but agree to be friends because they both feel that romance and marriage would destroy their independence and their dreams. Regardless, their blossoming relationship is beautiful and foundational as war and distance draw them closer, even when they are apart. The author shows incredible skill in stretching this romantic thread almost to the breaking point at times, all without detracting from the novel’s overall theme of those brave women who stepped out of the traditional female role and into the cockpit for their country, all with a slash of lipstick, hair styled in the victory roll, and an unwavering sense of purpose.
The writing style and characterization in The Flight Girls are exquisite and heartfelt, with Noelle Salazar providing a well-researched fictional glimpse into a time in American history that is both inspiring and compelling. The author’s first novel is an impassioned nod to the women in the WASP program who risked their lives ferrying military planes throughout the United States during WWII, fulfilling a dangerous and often underappreciated role in the war effort. “If this was where I was meant to perish, I’d be honored it happened around women I loved and respected, in a plane, while working for my country.”
Noelle Salazar has clearly done her homework in crafting this historical fiction, including interviewing veterans and exploring the WASP museum in Sweetwater, Texas. The Flight Girls will appeal to readers interested in WWII history that involves strong women who courageously defied the social assumptions that a mere female could never pilot such robust aircraft just as well, if not better, than her male counterpart. “Men, always underestimating us ladies.”
Noelle Salazar was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she's been a Navy recruit, a medical assistant, an NFL cheerleader -- and always a storyteller. As a novelist, she has done extensive research into the Women Airforce Service Pilots, interviewing vets and visiting the training facility—now a museum dedicated to the WASP—in Sweetwater, Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found dodging raindrops and daydreaming of her next book. Noelle lives in Bothell, Washington, with her husband and two children. The Flight Girls is her first novel. Visit her online at https://www.noellesalazar.com/.