An old adage, adapted from the title of a Thomas Wolfe novel, insists that you can’t go home again. Linda Holmes’ deeply entertaining and heartfelt second novel, Flying Solo, counters with: Well, you can, but it will probably be messy and chaotic, and you’ll need some wine and a few friends.
Laurie Sassalyn’s beloved great aunt Dot has died. A journalist living in Seattle, Laurie has been tasked with going through Dot’s belongings and preparing her seaside house in Calcasset, Maine, for sale. Laurie travels to her hometown for the summer and sets to the task at hand with the help of her childhood best friend, June, and her ex-boyfriend Nick, now the town librarian.
As Laurie sorts through 90 years’ worth of photos, letters, books and memorabilia, she comes across a handcarved, beautifully painted duck tucked deep inside a chest. Intrigued, Laurie begins researching this mysterious duck and why Dot had hidden it so carefully. The more Laurie learns, the more she is convinced there is a secret attached to this simple wooden duck.
NPR pop culture reporter Linda Holmes’ first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, which was also set in Calcasset, is beloved by readers and critics alike. Flying Solo is another absolute winner. It’s hilarious and insightful, with vivid characters who act and speak in utterly human and believable ways.
Holmes describes Calcasset with such precision and love that it becomes an additional character. In particular, the local library features prominently in the story: “A small parking lot, a bike rack, and a book drop bin sat in front of the big stone building, more like a church than the kind of brutalist block big cities had, or the office-park splat of a structure that too many suburbs got stuck with in the 1970s. This building had been here since 1898 and was on the National Register of Historic Places. This was a proper library.”
Flying Solo has it all: a mystery, shady con artists, a fabulously funny and supportive friend group and even a steamy romance. In the end, though, it’s a deeply felt examination of the choices we make and the many ways we define family.