Goodreads blurb: Two young daredevil flyers confront ugly truths and family secrets during the U.S. internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, from the author of The Other Typist and Three-Martini Lunch.
Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada — Eagle and Crane — are the star attractions of Earl Shaw’s Flying Circus, a daredevil (and not exactly legal) flying act that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas — Japanese immigrants — stole land that should have stayed in the Thorn family.
When Louis and Harry become aerial stuntmen, performing death-defying tricks high above audiences, they’re both drawn to Shaw’s smart and appealing stepdaughter, Ava Brooks. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and one of Shaw’s planes mysteriously crashes and two charred bodies are discovered in it, authorities conclude that the victims were Harry and his father, Kenichi, who had escaped from a Japanese internment camp they had been sent to by the federal government. To the local sheriff, the situation is open and shut. But to the lone FBI agent assigned to the case, the details don’t add up.
Thus begins an investigation into what really happened to cause the plane crash, who was in the plane when it fell from the sky, and why no one involved seems willing to tell the truth. By turns an absorbing mystery and a fascinating exploration of race, family and loyalty, Eagle and Crane is that rare novel that tells a gripping story as it explores a terrible era of American history.
When I first saw this book on Goodreads, I didn’t even read the blurb because the cover was so gorgeous, I knew the inside had to be just as beautiful. I was immediately intrigued (helloooo, historical fiction + Taylor) and pulled into a world I knew NOTHING about. Barnstorming?? Who knew such a thing existed?! The story is split into two times, early 1940’s, moving forward and then separately in 1943. Basically, these two storylines could not be any more different.
In 1943, Agent Bonner from the FBI has come to Newcastle, California to investigate two missing Japanese men from the Tule Lake Relocation Center, where they are being held by the federal government after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While questioning Louis Thorn, they watch as a biplane falls from the sky and erupts in a ball of fire. You could say this complicates things…
In the early 40’s, we meet Earl Shaw and his Flying Circus. As they make their way through small towns in Depression-era California, they are careful to keep under the radar as much as they can, while still making a profit. (Side note: you’re going to LOATH Earl Shaw.) When they reach Newcastle, two young men with a competitive relationship take their plane ride to the next level and decide to wing-walk while in the air. This launches a Flying Circus with daredevils and all Earl can see are dollar signs. Thus we have, Eagle & Crane.
I would say that the first 60% of the book focuses more on the traveling circus and the bonds and relationships formed between Eagle & Crane (Louis and Harry) and Earl’s stepdaughter, Ava. The fact that Harry is Japanese-American is brought up many times, illustrating the presence of racism, but more so after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The last half of the book was a bit harder to read, as the author describes the internment camps the Yamada family and the rest of the Japanese-Americans were forced into. I’m sure I learned about this in school but I didn’t remember any of it. I was shocked to read about the conditions these people were forced to live in. Most people know about Concentration Camps but you don’t really hear talk about the Internment Camps the Japanese-Americans were forced into—because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. In the US Governments mind, it was safer to evacuate and detain ALL Japanese-Americans, rather than take the chance they might miss someone who was disloyal to the US. I found myself shocked..and infuriated..my blood was boiling as I read.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But we will not be harmed. This is America. America is made up of many things, including many Japanese. We are not alone in this country. America is part of us, and w are part of it now. The governments leaders will not look at us as they do their enemy.”
It sounded right to everybody: Kenichi, Shizue, Harry and Mae-even to Cleo and Ava. It sounded right, and yet it did not sound quite true. Kenichi was speaking of the America as America wanted to be, not as America was.
The middle of the book is a bit slower, as Agent Bonner is floundering in his investigation and Eagle & Crane and flying around having a good old time, but there are important nuggets thrown in that help to tie everything together. Stick with it and you’ll love this ending!
That ending. Never saw it coming.
The writing is superb and there’s excellent character development. I loved seeing the transformation illustrated. Well done, Suzanne Rindell!
Many, many thanks to Putnam Books for my free copy in exchange for my honest review. It is a pleasure to share my thoughts!