Learning to Fly started with a dust storm in Eastern Oregon. A farmer was plowing his fields when the wind picked up all the freshly plowed dirt and blew it over the freeway. Unlike this dust storm in Australia, which seems fairly static, drivers in Oregon said the dust storm came to them. There were huge multi-vehicle crashes with cars accordioned, cars hit by five, six or seven other cars. The only hope of living was to try to jump out of your car and run away - without being hit again.
I bought the accident reports from the state of Oregon. They were surreal, with sentences like “Turn signal unit from Vehicle 7 is found on the back seat of Vehicle 13.” One car was found with the word "Freightliner" stamped into the metal.
The premise of the book is this: a 19 year old woman who doesn’t like her life is driving across Oregon when she picks up a hitchhiker and then is engulfed by the dust storm. The hitchhiker is killed. Our heroine narrowly escapes. A tanker truck catches on fire (which didn’t happen in the real one, thank goodness), burning the smashed cars. In the morning, our heroine reads her name in the list of the dead.
So she decides to start over. Only it doesn’t work out that well. The book got starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Now you can buy it for as little as a penny on Amazon or half.com, plus shipping.