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Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite
The Astronaut Wives Club is a fascinating, poignant and often heartrending window into the daily lives of the women whose husbands went to work outside of earth’s atmosphere and all too often did not come home. At the beginning of the Race to Space, the U.S. space program offered opportunity and a lifestyle unlike any other the country had known before or has known since. The astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions were an entirely new breed of American superhero; their wives were the unsung heroes praying for safety, rejoicing in success and mourning in times of loss. Through it all, they formed an unbreakable bond that remains both inspiring and unassailable.
Lily Koppel writes with a sure and steady pen, tracking the myriad ups and downs and reversals of fortune that drove these admirable women to elation, despair, and sometimes even suicide. Her narrative is remarkably spare and yet achingly descriptive - even though we know much of the history, we catch our breath after every turn and wait to exhale in moments of agonizing suspense, feeling the emotional roller coaster right along with the wives as they struggle to endure danger, loneliness, anger, passion and inexpressible terror in the public eye and under the ever watchful and unforgiving onslaught of the press. The Astronaut Wives Club depicts a world the likes of which we will not see again, populated by extraordinary women of strength and beauty. Lily Koppel has rendered it all with a master’s touch.
Orlagh Cassidy’s reading of The Astronaut Wives Club is as engaging and uncompromising as the extraordinary lives these intrepid women led. She never once gives away the ending of an episode, keeping her tone even and steady to create exquisite, understated tension in key moments. Poker players work to create a poker face; Cassidy has a poker voice, which she uses here to great advantage. The Astronaut Wives Club has a most welcome bonus feature - a PDF file of actual photos of the women and events of the story - which greatly assists the reader/listener in connecting with the narrative. In The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel has created an important, inspiring and indelible chronicle of an era and of a particular breed of extraordinary women we would do well always to honor and remember.