Touching the Clouds: A Novel (Alaskan Skies)
by Bonnie Leon

Published: 2010-07-01
Paperback : 368 pages
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The summer of 1935 pilot Kate Evans leaves home looking for adventure . . . And finds more than she bargained for in the Alaskan bush.

Don’t Miss Book 1 in the Alaskan Skies series.

“Touching the Clouds is a high-energy book that carries the reader flying along.”--Lauraine ...

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The summer of 1935 pilot Kate Evans leaves home looking for adventure . . . And finds more than she bargained for in the Alaskan bush.

Don’t Miss Book 1 in the Alaskan Skies series.

“Touching the Clouds is a high-energy book that carries the reader flying along.”--Lauraine Snelling, author

“Vivid writing. Bonnie Leon immerses the reader in the time period, the setting, and deep into the hearts of the characters. I didn’t want to leave them behind when I closed the book.”--Lena Nelson Dooley, author

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Kate Evans pushed open the screen door and stepped
onto the broad front porch of her parents’ farmhouse.
This was supposed to be her wedding day. Instead,
her lace, floor-length gown hung in her closet.

Shifting her pack over one shoulder, she moved to the railing.
Closing her eyes, she savored the feel of a cool breeze on
her skin and breathed in the subtle fragrance of sun-heated
grass. Richard’s image stormed against her peace. She could
see his blond curls spilling onto his brow, his wounded eyes.
He’d always been steady, but her announcement had staggered
him. She wanted to love him enough to stay, but the
turmoil she’d been feeling had escalated until she felt she had
no choice—she just couldn’t go through with it.

She gripped the porch railing, anxiety sweeping over her
like a summer squall. Had she made a terrible mistake? It
was one thing to postpone the wedding and quite another
to call it off all together.

They’d been friends since childhood and were comfortable
with each other. But did that mean they belonged together?
If she stayed, she’d be forced to give up her longtime dream
and would have to settle for a commonplace life. She’d end
up resenting Richard, and she couldn’t bear the thought.
Shaking off her doubts, she turned her gaze to her mother’s
flower gardens. The well-tended yard was bordered by
patches of rich soil embracing velvety pansies and roses
that hummed their splendor. In contrast, a flower bed on
one side was congested with brightly colored dahlias that
shouted at the sun. Beyond were the apple orchards. The
flowers were off the trees now, which were loaded with small
green apples.

Kate folded her arms across her chest. She couldn’t have
picked a worse time to set out on a venture. It was 1935 and
much of the country was in the midst of a crushing drought,
and despite President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the economy
was in shambles.

She heard the screen door creak open and turned to see her
mother step onto the porch. “Hi, Mom,” she said as cheerily
as she could manage.

Joan Evans lifted a picnic basket. “Here’s some food to
take along.” She managed a smile

Kate took the basket. “Thanks.”

Joan picked fading leaves off a hanging basket of red lobelia,
then turned kind eyes on her daughter. “We spent a lot of
summer evenings on this porch.” She pressed her fingertips
to her lips. “I remember you and Alison, sleeping out here
and gabbing until all hours.”

Kate took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to
release the rising ache in her chest. “Those were good days.”
Memories, like a slide show, flitted across her mind until she
purposely pushed them aside.

“Kate, you explained why you’re going, but I know there’s

“I told you, I want to do something with my life.”

“You don’t think being a wife and raising a family is doing

“It is, but it’s not right for me, not now. I have to . . .”

There was no way to describe how she felt—as if her heart
would shatter if she didn’t get away. She had to do something
that mattered, something better than just being what people
expected, a farm girl who got married and had babies. And
better than the girl who larked about with planes.
Joan settled into a wicker chair.

Kate knew what was coming, and she didn’t want to discuss
any of it. She sat on the edge of a chair and set her pack
on the ground. She held the basket in her lap. Clasping her
hands around it, she pulled it against her stomach, hanging
onto it as if it were an anchor.

Joan began gently. “I know a day doesn’t go by that you
don’t remember and feel the burden of . . . of Alison’s death.”
She studied the dead leaves she cradled in her hands, then
looked at her daughter. “It was a long time ago. It’s over. You
can’t get that day back. You have to go on with your life.”
Kate pursed her lips. She’d decided not to speak, but no
matter how she tried to hold back the words, they spilled out
anyway. “You don’t know what it’s like—every day knowing
she’s dead and that it’s my fault. If I hadn’t been so full
of myself, so careless, Alison would still be alive. She’d be
married and have babies and her mom and dad would still
be happy—and they wouldn’t hate me.”
“Not living your life won’t bring her back, it won’t make
anything better.”

“I’m trying to live my life. But I can’t do it here. Every time
I go into town I’m afraid I’ll see her mother or father . . . or
her brother or—”

“Kate, you can’t let the past rule the present.”

“That’s just it. As long as I stay here, everything is about
the past. I need to start over in a place where I can prove myself,
a place where I’m free to live without shadows of that
horrible day dogging me.” She shook her head, squeezing
back tears. “After the accident, I was too afraid to even go
up in a plane. I thought I’d never fly again, but Dad helped
me and I did. I’m a good pilot because of him. Now, well
. . . I’m twenty-five years old, and I’ve got to do something
with that ability while I still have time. And I want you to
be proud of me.”

“We are. You know that.”

Kate chewed on her lower lip. “Okay, but I’ve got to be
proud of me too.”

“Alaska’s a dangerous place, especially for pilots.”
The front door opened and Kate’s father stepped out. “So,
Katie, you ready?”

She grabbed her pack and stood. “All set.”

Bill Evans slung an arm around his daughter’s shoulders.

“Well, let’s go then.”
... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the Publisher:

1. When Kate left Yakima do you think she was running away from her past or moving toward her future? Similarly Paul ran from tragic circumstances to Alaska. Why do you think he and Kate chose Alaska? And do you think running from our heartaches (at least temporarily) can sometimes be a good thing? Why or why not?

2. Do you believe chasing after far-fetched dreams is something to be admired or to be considered foolhardy? Why? What does it say about Kate’s personality that she took off on her own with high hopes but a vague plan?

3. Sassa said Paul wasn’t the right choice for Kate. Who do you think really belongs together? Are you happy with Kate’s choice?

4. In the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s being a bush pilot was extremely dangerous. Why do you think pilots chose to fly the Alaskan Territory? Can you see yourself doing something that would consistently test your courage and skill? If so, what would it be?

5. Jack gave Kate a hard time. What do you think was at the core of his behavior? If you were Kate how would you have handled the situation?

6. Nena was afraid to fly, Paul was afraid to face his past, and Kate feared failure. Fear can have a profound effect on our lives. What is the best way to face our fears? If we give in to fear are the results always negative?

7. Kate decided that flying was all she needed. How do you feel about this? Can a career be enough?

8. Kate can’t forgive herself for Alison’s death. She believes being an exceptional pilot will help wipe away the guilt. Can achievements ever truly offer absolution?

9. When Paul and Kate go clam digging it marks a change in their relationship. Do you remember a first date with someone who turned out to be “the one?” Would you like to share?

10. Paul blames himself and God for his wife’s and son’s death. Why do people blame God for tragedies? And why do you think God allows such misfortunes?

11. Kate faced the most difficult of circumstances when her plane goes down, but she keeps her wits about her. How do you react in a crisis? Do you have a story you’d like to share about an emergency you’ve faced?

12. When Paul and Mike search for Kate, Paul prays, something he hasn’t done in a long while. We are often like Paul and wait to talk to God only when we feel there’s no other choice. What do you think the most common reason is to make him our last choice?

13. What is your favorite scene and who is your favorite character?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

I admire the risk takers of this world, people like Paul and Kate, who helped shape the state of Alaska. People who step out of the status quo, who dare to take chances and dare to be different. I want to be that kind of person.

It occurred to me that writing a story about real people with real troubles who overcome would encourage others to face their demons. And to step forward to live out the life meant for them, even if it means doing the seemingly impossible.

Alaska is part of my heritage. It is a place like no other, where God held nothing back when He let loose His creative genius. The state has an endless litany of stories of strength and courage and it is the perfect place for my characters to live out their challenges, failures and triumphs.

Please visit with me at www.bonnieleon.com

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