Book Post: Flight Season

Don’t just read Flight Season…Experience it!

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I read Flight Season, by Mary Marquardt, after having the chance to visit the library by myself. I know that doesn’t sound like an extravagance, but for me it’s a big deal. I usually go to the library with my kids in tow, which means I’m relegated to finding books for myself on my phone in the form of eBooks. That’s all well and good, but Flight Season was the first book book in a very long time that caught my attention when I was actually searching among filled shelves. It wasn’t available as an eBook, so I’m glad I picked it up and took the time to turn its pages using my own two hands.

Once again, no spoilers, Flight Season tells the story of Vivi, TJ, and Àngel who just want to make it through the summer in the ICU of the local hospital: Vivi to keep her spot at Yale, TJ to escape a future in his family’s restaurant, and Àngel to just literally survive. When the three are forced together, they begin to see things from the perspective of, not one, but two other very different people. This causes them to rethink much of what they thought they knew about others and themselves.

A big part of Flight Season is about people learning how to deal with the challenges that life throws at them head on with both grace and dignity, when deep down we know it would be easier to high tail it in the other direction. It’s about the experiences we open ourselves up to when we don’t shut out the hard things, which can help us have a better appreciation for the good. It’s about living a full life, not a perfect one.

I’ve always loved books that are told from different points of view. I’ve written three of them myself, and I’m working on another one now. I know how much can be added to a story when you have the ability to see thoughts from a variety of characters. In this book, the story is told in parts from three people- Vivi, TJ, and Àngel. Each brings a unique perspective, because they are from drastically different backgrounds in terms of money, upbringing, and culture. I grew attached to each of them for different reasons as well. For that reason, I picked one thing to talk about for each of them, and for each person I picked something they did for another, since the way we treat others speaks volumes about who we are as people.

Vivi is the type of person that spent her life taking a lot of things for granted. The last year brought big changes and now she finds herself stressing about things for the first time like Where am I going to live? and Can I afford my next meal? This might make some people shut out the problems of others to focus on themselves, but not Vivi. If anything it makes her more empathetic to Àngel’s situation, the more details she learns. 

She realizes pretty quickly that being outside in solitude, especially among birds, is a way for her to ease the stress of her situation. Only she can’t exactly take Àngel outside of the hospital, but that doesn’t stop her from seeking out ways to bring him moments of peace. She does the next best thing she can think of when she can’t take him outdoors. She fills his room with handmade paper cranes. It may seem like a small thing, but it shows that sometimes even the littlest gestures can bring a sense of calm and joy to others in pain.

These paper cranes reminded me of one of my favorite features of the newly designed library in my town. In the children’s section, which I frequent, there are no paper cranes, but there are these bird-like structures hanging from the ceiling. They sway and rock above the shelves. I like to look at them from time to time, and I’ve noticed kids eyeing them as well. I sometimes point them out to my own children when they are particularly wound up, making me wonder if silence is still considered golden in this particular section of the library. I sure hope not! About seventy-five percent of the time pointing out “the birds” works. The other twenty-five percent, they are already too far gone. But during that oh so sweet seventy-five percent, I see the calming effect of a simple feature in the room.

So peaceful…

Àngel may be in the ICU in America, but he isn’t a citizen. He spends his time before Vivi comes along pretending he doesn’t know English to avoid having to interact with people. Àngel loves reggaetón music as well as LL Cool J. Listening to music is actually how he learned English.

Àngel and Vivi form a strong bond early on in the summer. So much so that when TJ struggles to communicate with her, he finds himself seeking out Àngel’s advice. Àngel admittedly doesn’t see his advice as groundbreaking, but he gladly gives it anyway to help out both of his friends. However, TJ gets a little frustrated that Àngel’s advice comes from an LL Cool J song “I Need Love” from the album Bigger and Deffer. Even though it’s unconventional, his heart is in the right place, and it’s not entirely off the mark. It’s pretty amazing how music can help us better understand a tricky situation if we are willing to listen.  I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out how TJ handles his dilemma.

Everything about TJ’s family’s restaurant made me wish it was a real place that I could visit and eat. They made Brazilian food, like churrasco, a Spanish style grilled, seasoned meat, which they offered in an endless stream of table side service.  TJ’s dad took pride in only using top quality meat for his patrons. In order to keep up with tourists, his family had gone a bit over the top; however, they also did what they could to keep drawing the clientele that had fallen in love with their traditional food before they expanded. 

TJ, always struggling for money, sympathizes with Vivi’s struggles throughout the book. He is appalled to find that when money becomes tight for her, she has trouble realizing simple ways to cut corners and save some dough. One way specifically is her morning coffee from the drive thru. As a result, he starts making her cafe com leite at his restaurant before she picks him up for work. She immediately falls in love with the drink and can’t believe how much better it tastes than coffee from a chain. 

This made me think of my favorite coffee spot, LaFinca. It’s located in the old school downtown Eureka, MO. Not only can you get Colombian style coffee in many mouthwatering forms, but you can also buy coffee beans to take home. This has become a great addition to any gift basket for people in my family. If you are a fan of medium roast, I recommend the Pueblito Lindo. Recently they have even added traditional foods to their menu. Yum. 

While TJ’s family’s place isn’t solely a coffee shop- it’s a restaurant that also serves coffee- it’s the heart that resonates in both that I find enticing. You’re not there getting an average product. You’re there getting superb food and drink as well as the service, atmosphere and ambiance that only a local independent establishment can offer. This is the type of eatery that I seek out whenever possible.

There you have it. Visit a place that brings you peace at times of chaos. If you can’t do that, make one for yourself by grabbing some paper, visiting this site, and creating some cranes of your own. Find a spot to hang them where a calming effect could come in handy: where you study, your own bedroom, or  if you’re one of my many teacher friends, maybe a classroom. While you work, drink a cup of coffee from a new source to see if it hits the spot. Maybe listen to some LL Cool J while you’re at it. I know, it’s an unusual combination, but that’s what happens when you open yourself up to people from so many different backgrounds. It never hurts to give that part a try also, because you never know what else you could discover about them and you.

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