Friday, February 14, 2020

Alone With the Stars, by David R. Gillham (author), Hillary Huber (narrator), Emily Bauer (narrator)

Audible Originals, January 2020

In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set out on their around-the-world flight, and very nearly made it. They had completed 22,000 miles of the flight, with about 7,000 miles remaining, when they departed from New Guinea, headed for Howland Island. That was the last that was seen of Amelia Earhart, pioneering aviator and the most famous woman in the world.

For many years, the accepted version of events said that after the last transmissions received from Earhart while in the air, there were no further transmissions after the point at which she was presumed lost. Yet there were people who claimed to have picked up subsequent transmissions. They were ignored, dismissed as bogus, but eventually--many years later--determined to be credible.

Credible Amelia Earhart radio signals were ignored as bogus

This is the story of Lizzie Friedlander, a Tampa teenager who heard those last radio calls on her father's shortwave radio set. This is a fictional version, and while I have dim memories of hearing of a teenage girl who had heard those transmissions and whose name was, at least, very similar, the amount of research I was prepared to for this review didn't produce any evidence that my memory is correct. I don't think it matters in this instance, because the transmissions have been found to be credible, and this particular retelling of those events is fictional.

Lizzie is a smart, capable, 15-year-old girl in an era when girls are still mostly expected to be quiet, decorous, and useful around the house. Amelia Earhart is her particular hero, but as popular as Earhart was generally, she wasn't admired by everyone. Lizzie's father is supportive, and one or two of her teachers, but she gets regular reminders of what her goals, as a girl, are supposed to be. With her mother dead, Lizzie has mastered the female household skills and provides a clean and orderly home for her father while he struggles to earn a living in the Great Depression. It doesn't stop her from being intellectually curious, and using her father's shortwave radio to learn more about faraway places she hopes to visit someday.

When Amelia Earhart is reported missing, and Lizzie hears her transmissions, she carefully writes down everything she hears, noting times and whether Earhart or Noonan seems to be speaking, along with what they say. But what is she going to do with this information? Will anyone listen to her? Can Amelia Earhart be saved?

Gillham and the narrators do an excellent job with this. Lizzie is engaging, likable, and intelligent. Both the beginnings of changing attitudes, and the reality of existing limitations, are nicely reflected here. I found it a very enjoyable listen.


I received this audiobook as part of the Audible Originals program, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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