Flying in Place

Review From User :

I first read this book over a decade ago and was struck by its poignancy and beauty. I recently reread it and am still amazed; both that it is a first novel, and that so much truth comes packed into a such a small book. Twelve year old Emma fears the "breathing" that comes every morning at dawn, when her father sneaks into her room. She can tell no one about these nightly visits: not her mother, who is too fragile, not her friend Jane, with her unconventional family and brazen behavior. The only one she can tell about these visits is Ginny, the ghost of a sister who died before Emma was born. Ginny knows secrets, and with her Emma can leave behind her body and fly. The story is told in first person, and Emma sounds like a real twelve year old, albeit one who has grown up with a lot of messed up ideas about her body and place in the world. The father who sneaks into Emma's bedroom is quite different from the respected surgeon the rest of the world sees, and a lesser author might not have been able to pull this off. Palwick not only does so, she hints at some motivation for the abuser, without excusing him, creating an adversary who is more frightening for all that. If there was one false note here, it was in the depiction of Tom and Myrna, whom I really liked but who had ideas that seemed anachronistic to me. Overall, Palwick writes about a very serious subject manner in a moving and dramatic manner, blending the horrific and the gorgeous, the realistic and the surreal into a very powerful whole.


Once in a while, a first novel arrives like a bolt of lightning, commanding attention with an explosion of power, grace, and light. Flying in Place is such a book. As unflinching as The Lovely Bones, as startling as Beloved, it is a work to bear witness–with bravery and compassion–for the experience of millions of readers and their loved ones.

Emma is twelve, a perfectly normal girl, in a perfectly normal home. With a perfectly normal father…who comes into her bedroom every night in the hours before dawn. Emma will do anything to escape. From the visits. From the bodies. From the breathing. Even go walking on the ceiling–which is where Emma meets Ginny, the sister who died before she was born. Ginny, who knows things. Ginny, who can fly….

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