Amelia Earhart was born to take to the air. She grew up a tomboy, learned to fly at the age of 23, set her first flying record two years later, was the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, one year after Lindbergh. A vivid, courageous, selfless woman, she captured the love of the public imagination, and when she disappeared, flying across the Pacific in 1937, she became legendary.
It’s hard to believe somebody could take this material and make it boring, but Michael Loyd Gray achieved this in The Canary. The book begins just after Earhart’s plane crash lands, leaving her alive but without hope on a deserted island. In between fighting off crabs, Earhart remembers her youth, when she met the young Ernest Hemingway, who also lived in Chicago at the time.
None of this works. The dialog is endless, and flat.
“Come watch a game, Meelie.”
“Where do you play again?”
“Phipps Field. It’s at Chicago Avenue and Harlem.”
“I have no idea where that is.”
“I bet you can find it, though. You’re practically a Chicagoan now.”
“Sure you are. Oak Park isn’t so far from here. A matter of a few miles.”
“I don’t know, Hem. Will I have to watch players spitting?”
The characters are just as dull. Even Hemingway, who clearly interests Gray a lot more than Amelia, comes across as a very ordinary man. But the real crime is taking this woman, this pioneering, vigorous, lively, amazing woman, and making her sound timid and slow.