The building of an airstrip and of a community around it forms the backbone of Marjorie Randell’s novel, The Aerie.
The novel begins with Pat and Leslie Halston searching for a place to construct a hangar. Pat does restoration work on vintage airplanes and wants to find a site where he and Leslie can work and live.
The couple eventually persuades an elderly gentleman named Jake Weeks to sell them the level acreage on top of his mountain. As they begin construction, Pat and Leslie realize that they need more money, so they decide to sell 11 more lots for hangars and homes.
The bulk of the novel explores the relationships of the people who buy these lots and come to live on Weeks mountain, and Randell, in her writing, covers the gamut between the growth of friendships, the estrangement between parents and children, the destructive consequences of infidelity, and the blossoming of new love. In one short, 42-page segment, she even lays in the plot and resolution for a murder.
While the structure of The Aerie is sound and follows the time-honored tradition of novels of place, Randell’s characters lack the interior complexity to fully engage the reader. Many of her characters are hard to tell apart without referring to the chart in the beginning of the novel.
The problem is one of scope. In her narrative, Randell juggles 26 characters: 24 from the airstrip and two from the nearby town. This is a lot of ground to cover with enough detail to make the characters seem real. The only really vivid character in the novel is Jake Weeks. Randell does a nice job with his dialogue and gives him a unique and memorable attitude. On the whole, however, a rewrite with fewer characters and a better development of their interior landscapes would help this novel immensely.
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