Highway to the Sky

An Aviator's Journey

Non-Fiction - Memoir
344 Pages
Reviewed on 05/01/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Highway to the Sky: An Aviator's Journey is a work of non-fiction in the memoir, slice-of-life, and social commentary genres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience owing to moderate references to sex and violence and some use of strong language. Penned by author Lola Reid Allin, this heartfelt book chronicles the author's remarkable odyssey from a childhood dream crushed by societal norms to becoming a successful pilot in a male-dominated industry. Despite facing familial discouragement and societal pressure to conform to traditional gender roles, Lola's passion for flying drives her to defy expectations and pursue her dreams. From navigating toxic relationships to confronting discrimination and hostility in the aviation world, Lola's journey is a testament to resilience and determination. Her memoir transcends genres, blending personal challenges with professional aspirations, and offers a poignant reflection on the importance of pursuing one's passions in the face of adversity.

Lola Reid Allin has crafted a candid narrative that sheds light on the struggles faced by women in male-dominated industries, offering a great balance between her personal experiences and an extended social commentary on modern life. Her journey from a childhood marked by discouragement to finding fulfillment as a pilot is both empowering and relatable, and the pacing of her storytelling as she recounts her life is detailed and engaging. I was particularly moved by Lola's resilience in the face of adversity, as she navigated toxic relationships and confronted systemic discrimination with unwavering determination. The speech and thought presentation to recount these encounters is really readable and compelling with strong characterization of those antagonistic forces that she meets along the way. The memoir's exploration of societal expectations, gender norms, and the pursuit of personal fulfillment resonated deeply with me, prompting reflection on my own experiences and the importance of resilience in the face of challenges. Overall, Highway to the Sky is a compelling testament to the power of perseverance and the pursuit of one's dreams, offering inspiration to readers facing similar struggles in their own lives.

Grant Leishman

Highway to the Sky: An Aviator’s Journey by Lola Reid Allin is the memoir of one of the early female commercial pilots trying to succeed in the aggressive, masculine world of commercial aviation. When seven-year-old Lola took her first flight across Canada in 1962, she was thrilled and excited by the journey, declaring her desire to become a pilot. Her father’s response to her dream was: “Don’t be silly! Girls can’t fly!” Guessing he must be right, after all, she’d never seen or heard of many female pilots, she put away her childish dream – for now. Despite women having flown regularly during World War II due to the male pilots being overseas fighting, they reclaimed their “rightful” territory when they returned home after the war and women were again condemned to the occupations that “suited” them; teaching, nursing, secretarial work, and, of course, the most important role of all, that of housewife and mother. After a five-year toxic marriage, Lola finds the courage to strike out on her own and become a commercial pilot; however, she quickly discovers in all aspects of her training and career that she is not taken seriously by her colleagues nor accorded the respect she deserves as a pioneer for women pilots. Flying commercially is hard work and requires commitment and dedication, of which Lola has plenty, but wherever she goes in the industry she is confronted by the nastiness and prejudice of overt and covert sexual harassment, abuse, and ridicule.

Highway to the Sky is a challenging reminder that as a society we still have a long way to go in accepting that women are indeed equal to men in all occupations and professions. Author Lola Reid Allin began her aviation career in the late 1970s and in sheer numbers not much has improved in the pilot gender balance since those days. Only around 5 percent of pilots today are women and this percentage has not changed significantly since the 1980s. Although attitudes toward women’s abilities have improved in society in general, it does not appear to be reflected in the number of young women taking up aviation as a career. Lola’s experiences of hostility from male pilots and their often Neanderthal attitudes that women shouldn’t be pilots was a challenging cross for her to bear However, she can take some satisfaction that as one of the early standard-bearers of women commercial pilots, she has made a significant difference for those who followed her. I particularly appreciated her understanding that she and other female pilots were under intense scrutiny from their male colleagues and, in reality, they were required to be perfect pilots and were not given the latitude their male counterparts were frequently allowed when they made mistakes. Despite the trials and tribulations, she forged ahead and carved a place for herself among her childhood heroes. This is an inspiring read. I appreciated that the author was not afraid to admit and own up to her flaws, which is why this book is so readable and highly recommended.

Sefina Hawke

Highway to the Sky: An Aviator's Journey by Lola Reid Allin is a memoir that would appeal most to a mixed audience of young adult and adult women as well as those with an interest in aviation who do not mind the inclusion of swearing, domestic violence, and non-explicit sexual situations. This cross-genre memoir is a mix of aviation history, the author’s journey, and a feminist experience. In 1962, seven-year-old Lola had her dreams of flying through the skies as a pilot crushed by her father. Her desire for affection leads her to accept this as the truth for a while; however, a toxic relationship proves to be the catalyst that sets her back on the path to her dream. Defying the belief that girls can’t fly, she became a pilot and a flight instructor from 1979 to 1993. Are you ready to follow Lola as she battles against tradition, hostility, sabotage, and discrimination?

Highway to the Sky by Lola Reid Allin is a well-written book that shows a true snapshot of the period complete with the difficulties women faced when entering a male-dominated field. Lola’s drive and success in becoming a pilot is impressive and made even more so by the fact that since the 1980s the percentage of female pilots all over the world has stagnated at 5%. I found this fact to not only be interesting but it makes Lola’s accomplishments during her time even more extraordinary. The author did an amazing job of pulling me into her life and making me feel so strongly about her accomplishments that it was hard to stop reading. Overall, this book is an interesting and eye-opening account about not just Lola’s life, but also about the challenges and struggles women faced in the field of aviation.