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Cover of Flying Solo by Linda Holmes

Flying Solo

by Linda Holmes

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Smarting from her recently canceled wedding and about to turn forty, Laurie Sassalyn returns to her Maine hometown of Calcasset to handle the estate of her great-aunt Dot, a spirited adventurer who lived to be ninety-three. Alongside boxes of Polaroids and pottery, a mysterious wooden duck shows up at the bottom of a cedar chest. Laurie’s curiosity is piqued, especially after she finds a love letter to the never-married Dot that ends with the line “And anyway, if you’re ever desperate, there are always ducks, darling.”

Laurie is told that the duck has no financial value. But after it disappears under suspicious circumstances, she feels compelled to figure out why anyone would steal a wooden duck—and why Dot kept it hidden away in the first place. Suddenly Laurie finds herself swept up in a righteous caper that has her negotiating with antiques dealers and con artists, going on after-hours dates at the local library, and reconnecting with her oldest friend and her first love. Desperate to uncover her great-aunt’s secrets, Laurie must reckon with her own past and her future—and ultimately embrace her own vision of flying solo.

With a cast of unforgettable characters and a heroine you will root for from page one, Flying Solo is a wonderfully original story about growing up, coming home, and learning to make a life for yourself on your own terms.

Discussion Guide

Headshot of Linda Holmes

Author Biography

Linda Holmes is a novelist, a pop culture correspondent for NPR, and one of the hosts of the popular podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which has held sold-out live shows in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. She appears regularly on NPR radio shows including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Before NPR, she wrote for New York magazine online and for TV Guide, as well as for the groundbreaking website Television Without Pity. Her first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, was a New York Times bestseller. In her free time, she watches far too many romantic comedies, bakes bread, plays with her wonderful dog, and tries to keep various plants thriving.  - Author's website

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As a child, Laurie Sassalyn would escape to her Aunt Dot’s to get away from the chaos and hubbub of her own home. Years later, Laurie returns to Calcasset, Maine, to help clear out Aunt Dot’s house. Much of what Laurie finds is the usual mementos of a life well lived, but hidden inside one of Aunt Dot’s chests is an unexpected treasure: a beautifully painted duck decoy. Why did Aunt Dot hide it away? Laurie enlists Matt, the handsome “bereavement declutterer” who is helping sort through Aunt Dot’s belongings, but when Laurie discovers that Matt has nefarious intentions, she, her childhood best friend, June, and her high-school boyfriend, Nick, band together to solve the mystery. There’s still a spark between Laurie and Nick, and Laurie has to figure out a path forward that satisfies both her need for solitude and independence and her desire for a relationship. Holmes (Evvie Drake Starts Over, 2019) blends humor, emotional depth, and small-town charm in this delightful story about the bonds of family and friendship, showing how even the most independent people need someone to lean on. Readers will love spending time with Laurie and her friends; suggest to fans of Katherine Center and Abbi Waxman.

Publisher’s Weekly

Holmes (Evvie Drake Starts Over) serves up a sweet romance with a side of mystery in this fun page-turner. Laurie Sassalyn, having recently called off her wedding and on the cusp of her 40th birthday, returns to her Maine hometown to clean out the house of her recently deceased great-aunt Dot. Sorting through Dot’s belongings, Laurie finds a wooden duck decoy and an old letter with an inscrutable reference to ducks. She investigates the story behind the decoy with the help of a few friends, including her high school sweetheart Nick. Laurie and Nick renew their romance, but to his disappointment, Laurie has no plans to stay in town or settle down. Meanwhile, Laurie hires a man to help clean out the house, but when he finds out the duck might have a connection to a famous artist, he swindles Laurie and buys it for much less than it’s worth. After she realizes her mistake, she and her friends hatch a harebrained scheme to recover the decoy. Holmes’s colorful cast of characters pop off the page, and the sure-footed plot entertains. Readers will be eager to see what Holmes does next. (June) 

Kirkus Reviews

When Laurie Sassalyn’s beloved great-aunt Dot dies at the age of 93, Laurie takes on the job of cleaning out her house. Even as a child, Laurie idolized Dot and the life she lived as a single, adventurous woman. Dot traveled, never got married, and (most important to Laurie, who grew up with four brothers and a constant stream of noise) had a silent house. Now that Laurie’s almost 40, she’s re-created Dot’s life for herself in Seattle, where she lives in peace, enjoying her job as a freelance nature writer and spending her free time with her many friends. Cleaning out Dot’s house is a big task, but Laurie thinks Dot deserves the respect of having someone go through her stuff instead of just trashing everything. Alongside the many books and boxes full of old photos, Laurie finds something surprising—a wooden duck, carefully kept in a cedar chest. Laurie can sense that this duck was important to Dot, and she enlists the help of a “bereavement declutterer” to help her discern its value. She also reconnects with librarian Nick Cooper, the high school boyfriend she dumped when she realized that he wanted to stay in Calcasset. Nick and Laurie have both changed over the years—he’s been married and divorced, and she’s broken off an engagement—but what hasn’t changed is their deep connection. Nick and Laurie grow closer as they search for answers about the mysterious duck—especially when their search leads them to what might be the world’s first wooden duck heist. As Laurie’s feelings for Nick grow, she starts to wonder if her friend June is right when she says, “You don’t have to be single to be independent. And you don’t have to be married to be loved.” As in her debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over (2019), Holmes displays a gift for warm, richly drawn characters and situations that are as cozy as a steaming cup of tea. Laurie is refreshing as a heroine who is entering her 40s, a size 18, and completely comfortable with her life as an unmarried, child-free woman. There are no dramatics or big fights between her and Nick—just a believable adult relationship with real-world obstacles.

A charming and easygoing look at all kinds of love and the beauty of independence, featuring supremely likable characters.


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