In Full Flight by John Heminway

In Full Flight

John Heminway

John Heminway takes readers on a remarkable journey across a haunting African landscape and into a dramatic life punctuated by both courage and weakness and driven by a powerful need to atone.

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As a member of the renowned Flying Doctors Service, Dr. Anne Spoerry treated hundreds of thousands of people across rural Kenya over the span of fifty years, earning herself the cherished nickname “Mama Daktari”—“Mother Doctor.” Yet few knew that what drove her from post-World War II Europe to Africa was a past marked by rebellion, submission, and personal decisions that earned her another nickname—this one sinister—while working as a “doctor” in a Nazi concentration camp.

In Full Flight
explores the question of whether it is possible to rewrite one’s past by doing good in the present, and takes readers on an extraordinary journey into a dramatic life punctuated by both courage and weakness and driven by a powerful need to atone.

Advance Galley Reviews

A beautiful story of a life fully lived. I enjoy biographical histories set in Africa and this did not disappoint me. It was something I probably wouldn't have found without this program but I'm glad I did! I would highly recommend this as a book group selection, sure to provoke lots of discussion.

It was a good book, very thought-provoking. I loved the central premise of the book, which was about how people are complex and never just good or bad. A powerful story - packed with nuance and moral ambiguity. What a fascinating choice of topic.

In Full Flight was an unexpectedly fascinating story! It reads almost like a thriller, and I found myself tearing through the pages to find out what happened to Dr. Spoerry during her WWII years. It was a fair and even-handed look at a woman with a remarkable career spent atoning for complicated moral choices made during the war. It will make for interesting discussions among its readers. I would definitely recommend In Full Flight.

This is a truly inspiring book, one that opens the reader's eyes to many different perspectives. I highly suggest this read for book clubs, my own included.

What a great book! I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it!

A good work about the human condition during WWII. The reporter had to dig into the main character background, which made for interesting read. She found some purpose in her life. Would recommend.

John Heminway did a beautiful job with this book. Dr. Anne Spoerry is such a complicated person and it's difficult to form a one sided opinion of her life after reading this book. But this book raises a lot of interesting questions. Can we redeem our atrocious behavior by devoting the rest of our lives to serving others? Should our past exclusively define who we are and who we will always be? After reading about all the horrible things Dr. Spoerry did in Ravensbruck, it is very difficult to not judge her harshly. But her dedication as a doctor to the people in Africa makes it difficult to hate her. This book will keep me thinking for a long time. It also made me want to read more about this particular time period in Africa. I would definitely recommend this book.

About to embark on my own trip to Africa, I was anxious to read this biography of Dr. Anne Spoerry, a member of the Flying Doctors Service who brought medical care to remote areas of Kenya. What I discovered in John Heminway's "In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement" was so much more than I'd expected. Dr. Spoerry was certainly a complicated, complex woman. This thoroughly researched story of her early life struggling with moral choices during WWII, including time spent in a Nazi concentration camp, juxtaposed with her later life caring for the sick in Kenya leaves the reader with much to unpack during and after reading. At times, I cheered for Dr. Spoerry, and at times, her behavior sickened me. This is an important book that insists on much thought and discussion about a remarkable woman. Thank you Penguin First to Read for the opportunity to meet Dr. Anne Spoerry.

This extraordinary nonfiction story reads like a thriller, moving back and forth between Dr Anne Spoerry's life in Africa and her earlier years in Europe. We are first told about her feats or heroism in Africa, bringing medical care to people over nearly 50 years who would otherwise likely have had none. Then, we learn of her background in Europe and what occurred while she was imprisoned in Ravenbruck concentration camp, suggesting the possibility of her Africa years as representing redemption and penance. This book is so well crafted, I was riveted to the page, wanting to know what had happened to get Anne to the life I'd already learned she had. It brings up many questions and levels of understanding about people, including the complexity of human beings and the possibility of being pushed into actions out of desperation. This book clearly shows that none of us is just one thing and judging others by one aspect loses the greater story. I am left unsettled by this book but thought it was fantastic.

I wanted to enjoy this book and I think if my daily life didn't have so many demands for my time I would have been able to. However, as it is, I just couldn't get into this. I think I may put it on my to read list and try again when I have more time to dedicate to it. It seems to be an interesting biography.

It reads like a visually interesting documentary. I never heard about the main character before, for some brief period I felt as if I was reading a work of fiction, but not for long. I have a feeling that the audio version of this work will be a success as well, not to mention my deepest desire to see it in a documentary if one wasn't already made by the author. I would definitely recommend this book.

Heminway's book gave me the remarkable experience of rooting for the subject of a biography even as the author berates her. There are balanced biographies of complicated people, and there are way too simple biographies written by fans of their subjects. But Heminway clearly feels deeply betrayed, in a very personal way, by the secret that Anne Spoerry managed to keep from him and most of the rest of the world. He describes himself as her friend -- a characterization that is almost laughable as he describes this intensely private woman and her selective relationships -- and his mistaken assumption through decades that she was hiding suffering rather than wrongdoing at a concentration camp during WWII. Most of the book is not, in fact, about her 50 years in Kenya, flying her plane to remote villages and medically treating the sick and wounded. It is mostly a detailed account of the extensive research he did to uncover the truth of her role in Ravensbrück, the background, the context. He gives an almost impossibly detailed account of 3 months of her life there under the influence of another prisoner, with whom she appeared to be infatuated. The times he does describe in Kenya consist mostly of him following her around, listening to her stories (a "distraction", in his evaluation, and he does not share many of these stories she told with us), inevitably leading up to his bringing the concentration camp up and her clamming up. By the last interview he describes with her, following the pattern to a tee, I rolled my eyes at him. So what are we to make of this remarkable book, which did not at all convince me of the author's point of view? The book begins and ends with Anne's funeral, at which many people of very different backgrounds hail her. He focuses on her declining health, her horrifying missteps in WWII, her uselessness running with the country club set in her early days in Kenya. He's out to take her down, and despite all his efforts, I found her delightful. I had not heard of Anne Spoerry before, and she was not a saint, but a complicated human being who decided not to show some aspects of her personality to journalists (she seems bent on appearing hard and professional to him) and to others in her life. I think one problem with my experience of this book is that Heminway was so very familiar with Spoerry's outsized heroic reputation in Kenya that he sought to provide a counterweight to it. But I was unfamiliar with her before reading the book, and am not aware of the entire context he's pushing back against, so the effort came off as a bit ridiculous to me, as if I were watching a one-sided boxing match. I'm sure this book will engender quite a bit of discussion. I do wish it was written with a bit more even hand, by someone who was not so inexplicably personally invested. I recommend it on the sheer power of the story and subject matter. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

John Heminway has written a comprehensive biography of Dr. Anne Spoerry affectionately known as Mama Daktari. However, this is not a simple retelling of Anne’s pastoral life in Africa. It turns out In Full Flight not only refers to the fact she was a flying doctor but also to the fact that she fled from Europe after WWII. Heminway slowly unfolds the circumstances under which she left which ultimately gives even more value to her work in Africa. I foresee this being a big hit with the book club crowd as there are many deep issues to discuss. In Full Flight is a great read that will also leave you thinking.

I requested In Full Flight expecting a gentle memoir about an expat doctor based in Kenya. I enjoy memoirs set in Africa, and the story of this remarkable woman who gave her life and much of her personal wealth to ensuring that the people of East Africa were healthy promised to be a heart-warming, enjoyable book. What I read was something quite different; an interesting account of a woman, her history, and her compulsion to atone for the events of a short period of her life, a period which she continually refused to talk about. In this book, John Heminway has written an excellent investigative piece about Spoerry’s life, specifically the revelations that came to light after her death, and allows us to learn about the many facets of this interesting, much-revered woman.

Unfortunately, I am having issues with getting my downloads to work. :(

Very interesting book that I would recommend. Leaves you pondering what would you have done? Does all the good that you do erase all of the terrible things that you did? What a great book.

In a Flight is the biography of a Jeckle and Hyde woman. It's the story of a courageous doctor who was the first female flying doctor in Kenya; a woman who worked tirelessly for the people and children of Africa for 50 years, ministering to millions and inoculating thousands of children against deadly childhood diseases. But it's also the story of this same woman, interred at Ravensbruck during Wirld War 11 and accused by many woman there of aiding and participating in the torture and murder of many mentally ill inmates. It's thought my many people that knew her that she was forever tormented by her deeds and worked feverishly in Africa to atone for her atrocities. It's a fascinating story and leads the reader to question how much of a persons past can be wiped clean by charitable deeds performed in the present and future. It's easy to admire Anne Spoerry while despising the actions of her youth

In Full Flight, by John Heminway, tells the story of Anne Spoerry, the flying doctor of Africa. I knew nothing of Anne’s history so this was an interesting read for me. Anne is both admirable for all the work she did in Africa, but at the same time difficult to like due to her personality. Spoerry is definitely a woman on a mission to set things right in Africa, following her time in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The number of lives she saves and care she provides across Kenya is staggering. The author’s dive into her time with Carmen Mory both seems to draw attention away from Spoerry as well as provide explanation for what could be the driving force behind her life choices. While told like a story, it does have a tendency to jump between time periods, leaving you to recall where the story left off in a different time period. Heminway clearly has a tremendous amount of respect for Spoerry and makes an effort of telling an unvarnished story of her life and leaving it to the reader to form their own opinions about her attempts at redemption.

Wow. This will be a great book club book, because there is so much you can discuss and mull over. Very well written.


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