6:45 pm EST, February 23, 2018

‘Flight Season’ by Marie Marquardt book review: A powerful exploration of the transformative nature of grief and empathy

Marie Marquardt’s Flight Season is a beautiful story of love — parental, platonic and romantic — that will make you laugh out loud, cry just as loudly and leave you feeling hopeful and inspired.

About ‘Flight Season’ by Marie Marquardt

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Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

Written in alternating first person from the perspectives of all three characters, Flight Season is a story about discovering what’s really worth holding onto, learning how to let go of the rest, and that one crazy summer that changes your life forever.

‘Flight Season’ by Marie Marquardt book review

With its alternating points of view and three different stories, there are a lot of ways to describe Flight Season.

One way is to say that it is a story of grief and working through it. Another, that it is an account of injustice in our society and how we can choose to face it. And still a third — that it is an immigrant narrative which highlights the ways we can hold onto our heritage while also charting our own path.

The extraordinary thing about this novel is that it not only manages to tell these three different stories in 33 chapters, but that it manages to tell them all in a way that is evocative, honest, and distinct.

Vivi’s story is one of grief, an account of how loss affects people in very different ways, and how coming to terms with that grief likewise takes very different routes for different people.

Angel’s story is an accounting of deep injustice in our society, an honest depiction of how undocumented immigrants are treated in these current times and what everyday people do in the face of that injustice.

TJ’s story is the journey that many children of immigrants must embark upon — the navigation of embracing your culture and heritage and family, while also working to understand your own place in that culture and in the world around you.

In the hands of a less talented writer, the characterization of these three very different individuals might become muddled or lack definition. However, Marie Marquardt deftly maneuvers between each point of view character and each chapter has a distinct voice that clearly marks it as Vivi’s or Angel’s or TJ’s; there was never a time when I forgot whose story I was reading, whose point of view I was currently inhabiting.

Their stories, too, were all equally compelling and kept me interested. I’ve read plenty of alternating POV books where one or two POVs seem more interesting than the rest, so that you spend most of the book just hoping to read the POV of your favorite character(s). This never happened in this story. Vivi’s journey through grief was as interesting to me as TJ’s journey to understand his place in the world and relationships with those around him. And both of those stories were equally as compelling as Angel’s struggle to first understand what was going on around him and then his joy at the growing relationships he had with Vivi and TJ.

All three stories, too, for all their distinction from one another, also worked in tandem, exploring the role of suffering in our lives and the value of walking through suffering with those who love us and whom we love. Through each point of view and each unique narrative, we come to understand just how vital it is to be in community with others and we understand how powerful love — whether it be romantic love between two people, familial love, or the love between friends — is in a world filled with sadness and suffering.

In fact, it is how this book approaches those two things — sadness and suffering — that makes it more than just a good book, but also an important one. Our society sometimes treats suffering like a taboo, makes sadness a bad word. We want to ignore it or pretend it isn’t there; we want to make it all better as soon as possible because it makes us uncomfortable.

What Flight Season does — more than just telling three compelling stories, more than making us fall in love with these characters — is to make it okay to talk about suffering and sadness, to understand that sometimes the most valuable thing we can do when someone we love is suffering is to walk with them through that suffering, to stand beside them in their sadness.

And in doing so, we can transform the nature of that suffering and allow that person to understand how loved they are.

Flight Season by Marie Marquardt is out now! Buy it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or from your local indie bookstore. And don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads!

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