Love in Mid-Air by Kim Wright
(Grand Central Publishing, 2010)
Reviewed by Mary Akers
In Love in Mid-Air, Kim Wright’s delightfully sexy debut novel, the main character Elyse Bearden struggles to stay emotionally engaged in a ho-hum marriage to a dispassionate man. He isn’t unkind, her husband, and her life isn’t bad, but it is unfulfilling—especially in the sex and communication department. Is this, she wonders, what all marriages are like? On a routine business trip, Elyse unexpectedly gets the chance to test her convictions. But should lack of excitement be enough of a reason to risk everything familiar for a handsome stranger on a plane?
Elyse confronts such questions from her own conscience and from her girlfriends who feel the threat to their marriages implicit in Elyse’s dissatisfaction and deception in hers. Readers can rest assured that Love in Mid-Air is not a moral tale, though—even if it does wrestle with some weighty issues—but is more akin to a fun romp in the world of What If. Reading this book is like being on the receiving end of a juicy phone call from a best friend. Elyse is an entertaining, insightful, and self-deprecating narrator. “It’s been so long since I’ve felt desire,” she tells us, “that at first I mistake it for the flu.”
Kim Wright is an excellent storyteller. She knows just when to throw in a humorous aside to endear you to her characters, when to casually mention a sexy anecdote to keep your blood pumping, and when to wow you with a deep human insight that is so casually inserted you think you’ve thought it up yourself. In short, Wright writes in a way that is all about the reader—the reader’s experience, that is—and it’s clearly our enjoyment that matters most to her.
On occasion, I was left with a feeling that the author might be trying just a bit too hard—particularly at the end of a chapter, say—to make a point, or to refer us back to an image with a double meaning or ironic twist. Coming across a few of these can be deeply satisfying, but too many, placed too predictably, and they feel like an authorial wink, wink, nudge, nudge in an otherwise subtle and engaging read.
However, faulting an author for trying too hard seems like a niggling complaint, and surely it is, for there was little else to find fault with in this refreshingly funny, engaging, and satisfying read.
Mary Akers is a graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program in Creative Writing and co-founder of the Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology, a study abroad program originally located in Roseau, Dominica. She has also been a Bread Loaf waiter and returning work-study scholar. Her work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Fiddlehead, Mississippi Review online, Brevity, and other journals. She has published two books, one a collection of short stories titled Women Up On Blocks that won the 2010 IPPY gold medal for short fiction, and the other a co-authored book of non-fiction that has been published in the US, Australia, UK, Canada, Germany, and Poland, with French publication pending. Although raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia—which she will always call home—she currently lives in western New York.