Spiritual quests in the sky tie together the stories in LeGras’s emotionally powerful collection.
Christopher LeGras debuts with Weather to Fly, a story collection that can be read as a novel. The narrative constant is a love of aircraft and flying, and how the melding of the two lifts the soul. Both aircraft buffs and short-fiction fans will be entertained.
The collection is anchored by stories about Kandy Kim, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Assembled near the end of WWII, Kim crashed on a remote Aleutian Island. Later salvaged, Kim becomes the crown jewel in a collection accessible only to certain aviation buffs.
Kim’s stories fly into the mystical, but one of the most affecting in the collection is the melancholy “Canvas and Cables.” Drinking Four Roses bourbon in a run-down taqueria, Captain Trent Wilcox, a 747 airline pilot, confronts a seemingly insurmountable wall of depression. From such debris, LeGras constructs great romances.
LeGras’s settings are solid, reflecting the flying milieu, with each story thematically addressing the human condition and the spirit’s desire for peace and love. Despite allusions to the mystical, characters always seem to be a firmly anchored.
There is no postmodern ambiguity here, but LeGras sometimes offers striking surrealism. There’s the allegorical “Riding the ’Cane,” in which Jasper, a crow, experiences both the terror and the thrill of flight. Surrealistic also is “The Orange,” where a nebulous cloud entity haunts the career of a military pilot.
The author explores connections between fathers and sons by way of his experiences in three separate wars, flying B-17s in WWII, F-4s in Vietnam, and F-15 Strike Eagles over Iraq. Another theme is marriage. In “Water Bomber,” a beer-driven discussion leads a couple to the wry understanding that “we both win, we both lose.”
LeGras’s talent with prose-poetry is illustrated with the emotionally powerful “Clouds of Men,” about bomber missions in the icy skies over Europe: “I can hear the airplane. I think she’s as scared as we are.”
Employing flyers and flying as metaphors to address life’s meaning in this fragile world, Weather to Fly reconnoiters who we are and where we’re going, in a way similar to, and different from, the spiritual quest undertaken by the barnstormer in Richard Bach’s classic Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.
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