In Flight Patterns, Georgia Chambers is a thirty-something woman living in New Orleans, working as an expert in fine china for a local auction house. She lives a solitary life, away from her family home in Apalachicola, Florida. There, her 94 year old grandfather, her mother Birdie, her sister Maisy, and her niece Becky live in the family home. Her grandfather is a beekeeper; her mother Birdie lives in a silent world where no one but Becky can communicate with her. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with Birdie, but Karen White did the reader a huge favor by alternating chapters between Georgia, Maisy, and Birdie, so you get an inside peek at what Birdie's mind is like. If it had been left to only see Birdie from the perspective of other characters, nothing much would have made sense.
Georgia has been gone from home for 13 years when she is given the task of figuring out the origin and price of an unusual Limoge china set brought to her attention by James, a man from New York who has plenty of his own heartbreak to work through. It's an very different set of china: it has bees in the pattern, and sparks a memory in Georgia: she's seen that pattern before, in a soup cup her mother kept hidden in her closet. Is the china set part of a generally produced pattern, or was it specially made by Limoge for a smaller audience? And is Georgia's hunch that the cup and James' set belong together correct?
To find out, Georgia's boss tells her she must go back home and search for the cup. James tags along, intrigued by the mystery (and Georgia). Georgia reluctantly goes home to face the heartbreak and misunderstandings that sent her running--with a promise to Maisy to never come back--all those years before.
This is a story with many layers, and the layers move back and forth between the two sisters, Birdie, and her grandfather. It took me awhile to get into this book; mostly because I was distracted by life and couldn't concentrate. So that made me feel like it was dragging on; I suspect that wouldn't have been the case if I'd read it more quickly. It picks up steam about half-way through and moves to an ending that didn't surprise me, but I was glad to finally see Georgia and Maisy put all the pieces together and finally figure out what made Birdie live in her own world, and why their grandfather was so upset with the unfolding events and the search for the soup cup. Bees are a big part of this novel; their predictable patterns, their loyalty, their ability to defend to the death what they hold dear. All of it comes together at the end. There are many moving parts to this story, and I don't know if the story would have suffered if maybe there weren't quite so many issues to wade through.
I always enjoy Karen White's novels, and this was a satisfying read.
Rating: 6/10 for a wonderful setting and an intriguing storyline. I felt there were too many issues for one family story, but the author capably tied them all together at the end.
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