Pub Date 07 Jul 2015
FROM AN AWARD-WINNING WRITER, A GRIPPING DEBUT NOVEL OF THE SPACE RACE THAT EXPLORES THE INNER LIFE OF A NATIONAL HERO-AND ASKS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE COURAGEOUS IN THE FACE OF UNTHINKABLE LOSS
Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, one of the exalted few. He spends his days in a precarious dance with death above the Mojave Desert and his nights at his friend Pancho's bar, often with his wife, Grace. Both are secretly desperate for a child-and are delighted when, against all odds, Grace learns that she is pregnant.
But Sputnik has put the country in a panic, and NASA, newly formed, has been tasked with manning space before the Russians. Harrison turns down the chance to participate in Project Mercury and becomes a father to Florence, his baby girl. Yet his life, as a father and as a pilot, grinds to a halt when she becomes seriously ill and dies at the age of two. Devastated, Harrison loses himself in his work-and, sometimes, in distressing thoughts of Florence-and this time, when he gets a ticket to the moon, he takes it, but without consulting Grace.
As Harrison trains to become an astronaut, the toll that his daughter's death has taken upon his marriage becomes more palpable, even as his ability to reckon with the reality of it diminishes. Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, Benjamin Johncock's The Last Pilot is a mesmerizing story of loss and finding courage in the face of it, from an extraordinary new talent.