Anita Shreve, author of “The Pilot’s Wife” and 18 other bestselling novels, died Thursday at the age of 71. According to a statement released by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, she died at home in New Hampshire after a battle with cancer.
A literary writer whose work achieved broad commercial success, Shreve was vaulted to a new level of bestsellerdom when Oprah Winfrey selected her sixth novel, “The Pilot’s Wife,” for her book club in 1998. The novel follows the 36-year old woman of the title, who learns that her husband of 16 years has died when the plane he was piloting blew up off the Irish coast. (Shreve herself was the daughter of a Delta Air Lines pilot.)
Reviewing “The Pilot’s Wife” in Newsday, Heller McAlpin called it “beautifully plotted, tensely paced and thoroughly absorbing.” Shreve, she wrote, “keeps coming out with dark, compulsively readable tales of lives that are not what they appear on the surface and marriages that unravel with alarming speed.”
Among Shreve’s other novels are “The Weight of Water” and “Resistance,” which, along with “The Pilot’s Wife,” were made into movies. Shreve, who was born and raised in Dedham, Massachusetts, graduated with a degree in English from Tufts University. She taught in Massachusetts high schools for five years before turning to journalism and nonfiction, and writing short stories on the side. One, “Past the Island, Drifting,” was selected for an O. Henry Award in 1975. Her first novel, “Eden Close,” was published in 1989, and “The Weight of Water” (1997) was a finalist for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction), given to a full-length work of fiction by a female author in English.
Shreve’s final novel, “The Stars Are Fire,” was published last year.