by Piyali C.
I have discovered many beautiful reads while shelving carts at our branch. Sometimes, I check out more books from the cart than I put on the shelf (that is somewhat of an exaggeration, but not by much). Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes was one such discovery. I loved that book so much that I was excited when I found out the author was publishing her next novel, Flying Solo. This time I was prepared, and I requested a copy right away. After I finished Flying Solo in two sittings, I was in a dilemma. Which one did I love more? Bottom line – I like this author’s stories. I like how she does not tie everything in a neat bow at the end, because life is messy and our problems do not resolve beautifully all the time. However, she leaves us with hope, and what better resolution is there than to remain hopeful?
In the new title, whenever Laurie needed a break from her obnoxiously noisy brothers during her childhood, she went to her great Aunt Dot’s big, quiet house for refuge. Dot’s house was only a short bike ride away from her loving but loud family in a small, seaside town in Maine. Young Laurie was Dot’s favorite niece and best friend. When Dot dies at 93, Laurie is the one who takes up the responsibility of going through Dot’s possessions and readying her house for sale, since the rest of her family does not have time to deal with it. Laurie is now on the cusp of 40, she has broken her engagement, and she is going through a midlife crisis as she tries to figure out what she wants. The huge responsibility of sorting through Dot’s photos and belongings is somewhat of a distraction when her own life is falling apart.
Laurie discovers a beautifully carved wooden duck decoy lovingly stored in a chest under some blankets. Puzzled about the significance of the duck, so fondly hidden, Laurie sets out to learn more. In her quest to uncover the mystery of the duck, she falls victim to a con artist and rekindles a romance with her high school sweetheart, who is (and this was important to me) the beloved town librarian with terrific research skills (what could be more attractive than that?). Laurie also comes in contact with some genuine and unforgettable characters who become important parts of her life as she tries to uncover the mystery of the decoy and, in the process, learns more about the hidden aspects of her great aunt’s life. This journey not only reveals the colorful life of charismatic Dot, who flouted societal norms set for women and lived her life on her own terms, but it also helps Laurie discover what she actually wants in life and perhaps reconciles her to the idea of flying solo.
Told in a lucid voice, the story is a relatively light read, yet it makes the readers think about their own relationships and what they want out of them.
Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS, where she co-facilitates Global Reads and facilitates Light But Not Fluffy (starting in Spring 2023!) and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list.