Title: When She Flew
Author: Jennie Shortridge
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Officer Jessica Villareal’s life is a bit of a mess. She’s only thirty-eight, yet she’s a grandmother. Her daughter and her are estranged, though she does get to see her grandson, Mateo, relatively often. She pours herself into her job as a cop because it’s the only thing she’s really sure of in her life.
When the police department finds a father and daughter living in the woods, Jessica is there to see it firsthand. But for the first time, she questions whether the rules are always right, and whether she should risk everything for these two people she hardly knows.
When She Flew is based on true events in the Portland, Oregon area. In 2004, a homeless Vietnam veteran was found living in the woods with his daughter. There was media frenzy surrounding the whole thing, and it inspired the author to create a story loosely based on these events. However, the emotions and amazing character development is all Jennie Shortridge’s own.
This book brings up some really thought-provoking questions about abuse and the needs of children. Is it better for a child to be with a parent that loves them and is devoted to them, yet can’t provide the material things a child needs, or is it better to place that child in foster care, where they are almost sure to not receive the emotional support they would have otherwise had? It’s an incredibly interesting discussion that is tackled head on in When She Flew.
Jessica was the best part of this book for me. She was incredibly well-developed, and had issues of her own. She didn’t automatically do the right thing – in fact, it was often difficult to tell what the right thing was. She grappled with her decisions in her mind, though in the end, she made the decisions she felt that she could live with. It was so interesting, seeing the cop part of her face off against the part of her that was a mother.
When She Flew is also intriguing because you are never sure of whether Jessica is making the best choices for everyone involved. Often, things happen that make her (and the reader) doubt and question. The ethical issues in this book are so enormous, yet Shortridge handles them realistically with both grace and dignity. This book would make a wonderful book club pick, and is perfect for anyone looking for a thought-provoking novel that isn’t difficult to read.