By: Helena P. Schrader
Publisher: Cross Seas Press
Publication Date: October 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Three intriguingly intertwined stories by aviation expert and award-winning author Helene P. Schrader focus on the experiences of wartime pilots in the sky and on the ground, coping with trauma, disability, and the possibilities for new challenges.
Each story reads like, and could be deemed, a novella, so much background and apparent zeal does the author provide for her characters and their complex situations. "A Stranger in the Mirror" is David Goldman, whose horrific crash has left him with burns on the face that make him unrecognizable even to himself, and a crippled hand that may prevent him from ever flying again. Raised by a cold, distant father of Jewish heritage and a mother who cared but could not reach out to her children as she should have, the boy had an ambition to fly from childhood. Born in Germany and schooled in Switzerland, Goldman finally has a chance to volunteer for the RAF from Canada, at the outbreak of war. But when his plane is downed, he awakes in a hospital where a pretty young nurse gasps in horror at the sight of him. He will slowly recover with the help of an adopted family who also need his help, and learn to accept his new capabilities.
"A Rose in November" depicts a romance between two people who are older but not necessarily wiser. Rhys Jenkins, a widower struggling with fathering two teenagers and handling a new job and sudden transfer for the RAF, will need to examine his past mistakes and look to the future. He will have the quiet but affirming support of a woman who finds in Jenkins a possible soulmate. When he discovers an unpleasant truth about her, he acts in haste, with potentially disastrous consequences.
In "Lack of Moral Fibre," Schrader explores the tangled web of post-traumatic stress as earlier defined by military thinkers and dictated by those in power. Kit Moran is being analyzed for his LMF, the official term at the time, after expressing unwillingness to take to the sky again following a disastrous incident that has shaken his confidence. Like other characters in Schrader’s pantheon, Kit will need to find and boldly express himself.
Schrader’s expertise in subject matter she has chosen is evident on every page of the three tales she has created. A previous novel, Where Eagles Never Flew, garnered several prestigious awards. In this trilogy, she has tapped some of the characters from that work, a few of which were real people, with some action based on true incidents of war. She supplies historical background for each segment, and a lengthy glossary of aviation terminology and some common slang reflecting the era and culture in which the stories are based. Her readership will doubtless welcome this new foray into the nuts, bolts and bolts-from-the-blue realm of wartime airmen and will gladly anticipate another novel promised soon.
Quill says: With credentials and genuine enthusiasm for the daily professional and personal challenges faced by men who choose to make war in the skies, Schrader has constructed a trio of powerful tales expressing a myriad of viewpoints - male, female, young, old – with rich historical detail to underpin and enrich each offering.