A Review by Dr. Gregory H. Williams—Shattered Dream: A Single-Parent Airline Pilot’s Story is a compelling and inspiring story of a single father, airline pilot, and sole breadwinner for two teenage sons. Overnight, he is ripped from his comfortable and prestigious Captain’s “Left” pilot seat and becomes one of the many forgotten byproducts of America’s first corporate airline’s breakup.
Captain Brian H. Settles’ ejection from America’s skies drops him into a new reality of poverty, despair, and hopelessness. The fall from grace is told in a vivid, heart wrenching, and straightforward way. He pulls no punches as you stand with him in his newfound and undesired world, as he struggles to maintain normalcy in his fractured family. Like many who face trauma, he continues to try to cling to his lifelong dream of flying. It is only the immediacy of his fatherly responsibilities that makes him realize he has no time to wallow in his misfortune. Captain Settles’ struggle to survive is remarkably told as he slowly and grudgingly confronts the reality that the only vehicle he will pilot will be a second-hand taxicab, ferrying passengers to the same airport where he once proudly strode through the terminal in his vividly adorned Captain’s uniform.His anguish is palpable as he is routinely and carelessly ignored by his new passengers as simply a minor and easily forgettable conduit in the airline industry. The inner turmoil of his free fall is gut-wrenching.
His unwelcome struggle creates rare self-doubt in this ex-pilot who finds himself at the bottom of America’s transportation ladder. Nonetheless, his strong-willed independence thrusts him into a new world of those who toil in the lower echelons of the work chain and makes him realize that all work is good work and his fellow drivers have the same sense of loyalty, pride, and commitment he valued and cherished among his former pals in the cockpits of America’s occupational elites. Accepting that his new life is vastly different from his old and compelled by his new circumstances, his dogged persistence and refusal to be defined by his new station in life, bursts to the forefront as he struggles to overcome his whirlwind descent from luxury to survival.
Accepting, but attempting to change his fate, he moves forward to create a place of stability for him and the sons he loves so dearly. He is full of fatherly concern about if and whether he can provide the devotion and support they need to grow to maturity. Like many single parents, he is pulled by the necessity of working long hours to provide food and sustenance and at the same time be unavailable to his boys. In his desire to teach them about life and commitments, he painfully reveals his own shortcomings and often fails to recognize mistakes until it is too late to really model the behavior he desperately wants to show his sons. Yet, he unwittingly teaches them about loyalty and commitment as he tries to resurrect a long distant, casual affair to build a long-term relationship, but again, realizes too late that the fire of a past passion has hissed and burned out, but only after his long-ago love moves in with him and discovers she has terminal cancer. His commitment to provide all the help and support he can while his lost love struggles to win a battle that quickly becomes evident she cannot win is remarkable. Buoyed by his own childhood experiences as an unadoptable and unloved mixed-race orphan, who by the grace of God was surprisingly adopted by a soon to be single-parent mother, he without being fully cognizant of the course he has chosen finally models without thought, internal angst, or reflection, the behavior of his true mother and in turns unexpectedly becomes a remarkable model of compassion, understanding, and commitment for his boys. They learn the lesson of a lifetime.
As death in the household envelops him and the dream of flying again, evaporates, a late-night telephone call resurrects his lifelong dream. Despite some agonizingly portrayed self-sabotaging behavior, his final quest to return to America’s skies soon finds him once again on the cusp of reclaiming the “Left Seat.”
Dr. Gregory H. Williams, author of Life on the Color Line: The Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black, winner of the 1995 Book of the Year Award from The Los Angeles Times