Flying Alone: A Memoir. Beth Ruggerio York. FSB Associates. December 2019. pb, 246 pp.; ISBN: 978173399609.
Once flying got into Beth Ruggerio’s blood as a teen, she was totally hooked. At first she was sidelined with a brutal diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. But with medication she was able to make a plan to get into flying. It wasn’t to be through the Navy training she had initially planned but she decided to would take lessons and earn and licenses through the hours she put in flying and the tests she would have to take along the way. This is as much an adventure story as it is a memoir for Beth’s way was far from easy and fraught with numerous examples of dangerous events which became life or death challenges to overcome.
Beth finds a flying instructor who also becomes her boyfriend. However, as Beth puts it, Flying is number one for Steve and everything else comes after that. Steve is a great instructor but is not too beg on building up a person’s ego. He pushes her as hard as he does himself. But she learns to handle every difficulty, even to the point where it begins to impair her mental health. She flies in poor visibility, in storms, with mechanical plane problems and more. She also doesn’t work for the employers who place employees’ needs and well-being on a priority list. She even works for a company that is flying dangerous material and newspapers that top over the weight limit. While she is doing all this, some of the friends and acquaintances she has met die in brutal accidents that should never have happened.
Eventually Beth winds up in counseling and taking anti-depression medication and realizes she will die if this pattern continues. She therefore works her way into commercial pilot work and then returns to school to do Chinese translation work. Her story is riveting, harrowing and a whole message of wisdom and caution about the choices one makes for achieving one’s dreams. The costs may be larger than the dream. Interestingly, the challenges are also about personal victories that shape an individual with or without the assistance of others. There are also some scenes that point out the changes in the airline industry from male to female employees. All in all, this is a fascinating memoir full of unrelenting tension, insecurity and triumphs that will leave readers thinking and asking questions about choices and decisions.