Frances Finkel and the Passenger Pigeon

Written by D.M. Mahoney
Review by G. J. Berger

By November 1941, 17-year-old Frances Finkel has logged more than 2500 hours flying airplanes and has become an expert aircraft mechanic. Her father owns a flight-training facility and maintenance shop at a landing strip in Oregon. Younger brother, Seamus, helps too. As the novel opens, Frances’s mother has suddenly left with no forwarding information. The recent drowning of Frances’s twin brother, Danny, had likely pushed her to flee.

On a flight to a remote area of Oregon, Frances finds a rare passenger pigeon. She trains it to carry home messages from far away. The U.S. enters WWII, and every able-bodied flyer is called up to help—but not Jewish women under 21. One early morning Frances sneaks out of the house, clutching only a tote bag and her life savings. She heads by train to the East Coast base where women pilots are trained. Not yet allowed into combat, the women ferry newly built planes from factories to military bases all over the country. Frances’s exceptional skills at flying and repairing planes take her to challenging adventures, even budding romances.

Author Mahoney displays a deep knowledge of the treacherous Oregon coast, airplanes of that era, passenger pigeons, famous aviators, and the military brass that run things. Those aspects make an interesting backdrop for the heart-tugging human elements in this novel. Frances struggles to remain loyal to her father and Seamus, find her mother, retain her bond with the rare pigeon, and still put her own great talents to use beyond a small town in Oregon. Recommended for teens and anyone interested in the history of female aviators.