INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK
The unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost—Great Circle “soars and dips with dizzying flair ... an expansive story that covers more than a century and seems to encapsulate the whole wide world” (Boston Globe).
“A masterpiece . . . One of the best books I’ve ever read.”
—J. Courtney Sullivan
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There--after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes--Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.
A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian's disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian's own story, as the two women's fates--and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times--collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We love awe-inspiring stories about unconventional women—and this romantic adventure has two alluring heroines at its heart. Marian Graves, a scrappy teenager in 1930s Montana, dreams of becoming a pilot. When a mysterious benefactor pays for flying lessons, her wish comes true—at a price. Cut to modern-day Hollywood, where A-list actress Hadley Baxter has left the film franchise that made her a star to play Marian in a low-budget indie. This pageturner takes us on an unpredictable journey as we witness Hadley’s life-changing, globe-trotting transformation as she becomes increasingly inspired by Marian’s fearless life (which included passing as a boy to take a dangerous job running liquor during Prohibition). Maggie Shipstead—who wrote one of our favorite wedding dramas ever, Seating Arrangements—dazzles with her lyrical writing and sharp wit. Great Circle will charm you and sweep you away.
Shipstead (Seating Arrangements) returns with a breathtaking epic of a female aviator. In 1914, infant twins Marian and Jamie Graves are sent to their dissolute uncle in Montana after their mother dies. There, a married pair of barnstormers inspires 12-year-old Marian, who feels "only lightness" as a passenger during a roll, loop, and nosedive. As a teen trucking hootch during Prohibition, Marian makes a delivery to a brothel, where she meets bootlegger Barclay Macqueen, who sponsors her interest in flying. Later Barclay traps her in a disastrous marriage, and she flees to become a bush pilot in Alaska. Her subsequent exploits are thrillingly and perceptively chronicled: during WWII, she ferries Spitfires for the RAF, and in 1949 embarks on a fateful pole-to-pole circumnavigation of the globe, which leads to a crash in Antarctica, after which she is assumed to have died. Shipstead interweaves stories of Jamie, who becomes an artist and draws battle scenes during WWII, and of her wartime lover, Ruth, with asides about historic aviators (many of them women), and convincingly conveys her characters' yearning for connection, freedom, and purpose. In a present-day narrative, film star Hadley Baxter, herself orphaned by a plane crash, is cast to portray Marian, an ambitious move for Hadley after having been known for her role in a Twilight-esque fantasy series. Shipstead manages to portray both Marian's and Hadley's expanded sense of consciousness as they push the boundaries inscribed around them Marian's through flight and Hadley's through creative inspiration (a particularly colorful scene has her zooming on psychedelic mushrooms). This is a stunning feat.