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Fly Girl: A Memoir

Review

Fly Girl: A Memoir

In this dynamic memoir, noted novelist Ann Hood recounts her early career as an airline stewardess. Hood, whose first book, SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE, was written in bits and pieces during her stints in the air, was challenged, exhilarated, overworked and at times exploited during her eight years working for now-defunct TWA.

The free-spirited Hood was attracted to air travel at a young age; the only job she applied for after completing a college degree was to become a “fly girl.” Having worked as a model in her teens, she had both the good looks and the pride in good pay that seemed to be part of the flying profession. After being interviewed and turned down by several airline companies, she was accepted by United and TWA, choosing the latter because of the lure of world wandering, which she certainly would experience following a round of tough training.

"Even now, after some time on the ground once she gave up being a stewardess for a successful writing career, Hood still 'flies' in her vivid memories and invites readers to become airborne, if only in imagination."

Hood quickly realized that her work would require not only pleasing passengers minute by minute but also potentially operating the complex equipment that could result in saving lives in case of harrowing emergency scenarios. She had to adjust to sleep deprivation, constantly changing schedules, living with other fly girls, and compulsively keeping her weight down by whatever means necessary to keep her job. She did see the world and celebrity travelers, with stopovers in Europe and elsewhere, and enjoyed trans-US flights as well. One amazing experience that has stayed with her was riding in the cockpit and seeing, feeling and hearing the jet land. It brought her to tears and “reminded me that I was alive.”

Hood’s recollections are charged with airline history, as well as personal reminiscences, as we see women who served on passenger planes “move up” from being a “stewardess” --- sexy, high-heeled, single --- to a “flight attendant” in the wake of the Equal Employment Opportunity ruling. But curiously, those women who flew (as Hood did) in the mid- to late 20th century prefer the former term, as it encapsulates the mystique of the work and the adventures --- exciting, edifying, terrifying --- that they experienced.

Hood’s memories include an on-board passenger death, a pervasive fear of hijackings and crashes, a sensuous interlude with a handsome foreigner, and some sad stories --- a wedding party group who missed the event because of flight delays, a man who forgot his luggage filled with gifts for a family celebration --- leaving her to wonder what happened to those unfortunate individuals. Details of the unfair employment policies of airline companies and the ultimate “crash” of TWA under mismanagement are also included.

Even now, after some time on the ground once she gave up being a stewardess for a successful writing career, Hood still “flies” in her vivid memories and invites readers to become airborne, if only in imagination.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on May 13, 2022

Fly Girl: A Memoir
by Ann Hood

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2022
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN-10: 1324006234
  • ISBN-13: 9781324006237