Book Review: Crossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro

Crossing the Horizon: A Novel by Laurie Notaro


We’ve all heard of Amelia Earhart, daring aviatrix and record setter. She was the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic ocean, the first to fly from Hawaii to California. She wanted to be the first to fly around the world, but disappeared during the attempt. In 1928, Earhart was also the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane, though this first trip was made with her as a passenger. It is this trip we are concerned with here.

We all know Earhart, but the names of the women who tried and failed the crossing have largely fallen from the history books. While Earhart and her crew were preparing for their flight, countless others were also making the attempt at nonstop transatlantic flight. In Crossing the Horizon, Notaro shines a light on three of Earhart’s contemporaries; strong willed women determined to claim the title of first woman across the Atlantic for themselves.

In Notaro’s book, we meet Elsie Mackay, British aristocrat and former WWI nurse. Mackay is a determined, capable, and ambitious aviatrix, who is determined to use the considerable resources available to her to make the attempt. There is Ruth Elder, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks in small town Georgia, who uses her prize money from beauty pageants to pay for flying lessons. And Mabel Boll, known as “The Diamond Queen”, wealthy widow and socialite, ready to go to any ends to add “Queen of the Air” to her titles.

Each of these women is spirited, intelligent, and determined. And each incredibly accomplished, especially when you consider the role women were expected to play in the 1920s. None wait passively for help in accomplishing their goals, but take the reins themselves, and god help anyone who gets in their way.

Notaro has written this book as a novel, a la Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, making this nonfiction history engaging and accessible. Knowing that these women really attempted to cross over one of the most unforgiving oceans in the world–in tiny planes (without heat)–with little to no chance of rescue, and the odds stacked deeply against them, is incredible. This is one of those books where you find yourself staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish.

I highly recommend this book to just about everyone. History buffs will be delighted in Notaro’s work. Fans of Erik Larson and his work will find a lot to love here. Anyone looking for motivation to get off the couch and do something can find far worse role models than these three women. If you want a real life story that reads like an adventure tale, Crossing the Horizon is perfect for you.

An advance ebook of Crossing the Horizon was provided by the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Crossing the Horizon is scheduled to be published on October 4th, 2016.

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