It is one thing to be a fifteen-year-old English girl caught up in a mid-air plane hijacking.
It is quite another to be able to recreate that experience decades later in a novel which puts the reader right there as one of the exhausted, terrified passengers.
Miriam Moss achieves just that.
As the fictional Anna, she retells her own 1970 experience flying home to boarding school in England, when her plane is hijacked and forced to land in the Jordanian desert.
Seated either side of Anna are Tim, aged nine, and David, 17. Better friends Anna couldn’t have been given, as they and the other passengers fill in the tedious, boring, terrifying hours. Water is rationed. Food hardly exists.
The hijackers make the stakes clear. Their colleague in custody in the UK will be released, and the passengers freed – or the passengers will be blown up with the plane.
The heat, the cold at night, the hunger and thirst and sweaty filth on the plane almost become the reader’s experience.
Thanks mostly to the indomitable Tim, the story is also alive with unexpected humor.
Because the fictional cast of passengers, crew, and hijackers are the most memorable takeaway from Girl on a Plane. Moss creates them as fully realized human beings, with their fears, their courage, their weaknesses, their personal stories.
And like Anna, by the time we evacuate the plane, we may understand that some people’s stories are not as straightforward as we thought.