Alcohol & Advil: The Only Plane in the Sky and Evvie Drake Starts Over

Alcohol and Advil Literary Style


Welcome to Alcohol & Advil, where I pair a book likely to cause a “reading hangover” (i.e. the alcohol) with a recovery book (i.e. the Advil)! For me, the “alcohol” is usually a book that I either absolutely loved or one that punched me in the gut in an emotionally depleting way…and, in this case, it’s both.

I don’t think I’ve ever needed a recovery book as badly as I did after finishing The Only Plane in the Sky. It absolutely gutted me. I even inadvertently sandwiched it between two recovery books…one to relax my brain heading in and one to decompress afterwards. I needed every word of both.

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

The Alcohol

Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett GraffThe Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11by Garrett M. Graff
Nonfiction – History (Release Date: September 10, 2019)
512 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Avid Reader Press)

Plot Summary: Graff compiles the memories of a multitude of people surrounding 9/11, from Vice President Dick Cheney and Katie Couric to regular people in and around the crash sites.

My Thoughts: I expected The Only Plane in the Sky to be emotional, but I underestimated how much it would hit me. I cried about 7 times in one day. This book is absolutely incredible and the oral history format transports you back to that day. This isn’t a book about the facts of 9/11 (though those are there in spades), it’s about the feeling of living that day. In my view, The Only Plane in the Sky should be required reading when 9/11 is taught in schools…especially now since the children coming through school were not alive when 9/11 happened.

Graff combines oral histories from various archives and historical centers with interviews he conducted. The opening interview brilliantly focuses on the only American not on planet Earth when 9/11 happened (he was on the Space Station). I love how Graff juxtaposed the perspective of the biggest players in this tragedy with the perspective of regular people. And, it was the small images that affected me most…for example, how the only sounds in the stairwells as people were exiting the Twin Towers were occasional calls of “move left,” which meant to make room for a burn victim to be brought down. Graff captures the confusion, but also a periodic sense of calm and, above all, the humanity of that day. This book wrung me dry…and is currently in the running for my #1 book of 2019. P.S. – Garrett Graff will be joining me on the podcast in November!

Bruno Dellinger, principal, Quint Amasis North America, North Tower: What we went through will haunt us until the end of our lives.

The Advil

Evvie Drake Starts OverEvvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes 
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: June 25, 2019)
304 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Ballantine Books)

Plot Summary: After leaving New York in disgrace after a case of the yips, Dean (a  pitcher for the Yankees), escapes to a small town in Maine and moves into Evvie’s (a recent widow) guest apartment.

My Thoughts: Rom-coms in book form are having quite a moment, but they’re not my usual cup of tea. They’ve been hit (How to Walk Away, One Day in December) and miss for me. So, I was somewhat surprised to really enjoy this one! It has all the rom-com cliches you’d expect: good friends with sexual tension, two broken people trying to put themselves back together, and a strung out “will they or won’t they” scenario.

But, what tempered the cheesiness of all these cliches for me was the writing and the dialogue, in particular. It’s smart and snappy and I could picture it as a movie script (a cursory Google search didn’t turn up anything about the film rights being purchased, but Linda Holmes, also the host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast did say she could see Brie Larson as Evvie and Chris Evans as Dean in a film adaptation). Holmes also included excellent commentary on grief, secrets, platonic friendship between a man and a woman, and appearances vs. reality. I’m also a sports-fan, so I appreciated the view into the mentality of an elite athlete and what happens when that confidence gets shattered. And, if you love quirky, small-town settings, you’ll love Calcasset, Maine!

“She says when something happens, good or bad, you can only call one person first. And if you’ve been somebody’s first call, it’s hard not to be their first call anymore. She says it’s one of the reasons why parents sometimes feel sad when their kids are getting married. It’s not just the empty nest. They’re not the first call anymore.”

What’s the last book that gave you a reading hangover? And, what did you cure it with?

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Only Plane in the Sky


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  1. I’m not sure I could handle The Only Plane in the Sky. I did think Evvie Drake was a lot of fun.

    Posted 10.3.19 Reply
  2. I have about an hour left in the audiobook of The Only Plane in the Sky, and feel exactly the same about it. I’ve been crying all over town! Still, after only two hours of listening, I knew I wanted a physical copy, so ordered one. I’m currently trying to get most everyone I know to read it.

    Evvie was super fun and a perfect recovery book.

    Posted 10.3.19 Reply
  3. Angela wrote:

    I’m on a pretty long wait list for The Only Plane in the Sky, but I know it will be worth the wait. I’m sure I’m going to cry many times.

    Posted 10.3.19 Reply
  4. Sally Valente wrote:

    I would definitely read both books and am thinking of buying The Only Plane in the sky.
    I think it’s very important to remember and capture the very essence of that day and your review supports that feeling.

    Posted 10.8.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Only Plane does just that. Essence is a great word for it!

      Posted 10.15.19 Reply

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