Author: Benjamin Johncock
Intimate as a cell, The Last Pilot suckles its characters like a besotted new mother. As Johncock lays out the marriage of 1950s test pilot Jim Harrison and his wife Grace, he also describes Harrison’s livelihood as a part of the NASA/Cold War Space Race (1955-1972) between the United States and the Soviet Union. Each character tessellates into the big picture of ambition and fervor as the U.S. fights to be first to win the race to Space. When the Harrison’s find themselves pregnant, Jim and Grace are ecstatic. And when the baby dies at two, Jim chooses to hide behind his great ambition.
Sonorous, tender, brutal and haunting, Johncock creates a miasma of emotion in minimalized, taut dialogue and prose (one thinks of Raymond Carver and indeed, Ernest Hemingway) and the prose drives the fearless beauty of this intensely personal novel. As we experience the greed of ambition, the loss of hope as a child dies, the disenchantment of human creation, we watch Jim Harrison survive and rally as he finds his way through the darkness of Space to return to himself and Grace. Immobilizing – yup, it is that good.
With flair and vision, this is a novel that reaps what is sows. I’d give it a 5 plus on writing alone, but throw in the harrowing plot, the reality of the lives of the test pilots who lived and died in flight, and a love story so tender that it swells with wonder, and this novel soars. Don’t miss it. A novel of the year.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A”
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
The Last Pilot: A Novel is available for purchase on Amazon.com and your local bookseller.