Sometimes it is comforting to fall back into time, especially when life has become so complicated and the rolling acres of Iowa farmland are lost to memory. In Dear Mrs. Lindbergh, Kathleen Hughes steps into 1920ís-30ís Iowa, where the quiet rhythm of farm life dictates the lives of families who make their living from the fertile earth.
One Thanksgiving weekend, when octogenarians Ruth and Henry Gutterson fail to return home from visiting their adult children for the holiday, John and Margaret grow alarmed. Their parents have always been predictable; now, suddenly, they are missing. There is no sign of foul play and the local police arenít particularly concerned. It dawns on the brother and sister, eventually, that their elderly parents may have run away.
When Ruth falls in love with Henry Gutterson, who flies an Air Mail plane just after World War II, her farmer-father isnít overjoyed to lose his only child. But he canít begrudge the love the couple shares. While the farm means everything to her father, Ruthís years are filled with longing and loneliness, a yearning to escape her small corner of the world. Then Henry flies into her life, landing his plane where the corn will soon break through the earth, and she finally has something to dream about.
After Ruth and Henryís marriage, as promised, they live on Ruthís fatherís land. But Henry wonít give up flying, even to please his father-in-law. He flies weekdays, returning to his bride on weekends. Missing Henry, Ruth begins a lifelong habit of writing letters to people who never answer them, letters where she pours out her feelings, hopes and disappointments. When Henry allows her to accompany him as navigator, Ruth is thrilled to share his flying experiences, falling in love with the joy of flying. Then pregnancy with her first child, a son, grounds the young mother whose heart is in the clouds. The letter writing continues, especially to the wife of Charles Lindbergh, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. For Ruth, the letters are her version of a diary, talking to friends who donít reply.
The letters to Mrs. Lindbergh are particularly poignant because Lindberghís wife continues flying even after the birth of her child. Although she adores motherhood, Ruth craves flying as she needs air to breathe, but there is no one to understand, not even Henry. He canít comprehend the desperation she feels when she fears she will never fly again but be anchored to the soil forever.
This intimate tale is brimming with compassion for a woman trying to find a path between her life and her dreams, as well as forgiveness for her own human failings. Henry and Ruth, for all their love of flying, are securely grounded in each other and their sense of family. Marriage has taught them about lifeís compromises, and it allows Henry to finally ďhearĒ his wifeís silent call.
Kathleen Hughes writes with a simplicity that belies the very complex emotions of her characters, especially Ruth. In their pastoral setting, this fated couple exemplifies the quiet beauty and strength of the heartland.