A man receives a call to let him know that his sister has died of starvation in Berlin. Some weeks later he’s in Munich Airport with his father and an American official waiting to take Miriam’s body to America.
When they get to the airport the place is completely packed as all flights are grounded because of severe fog. They had to toss a coin to decide whether Miriam should be buried in Germany or at home and they’re at this particular airport as the father had wanted to get a direct flight home for Miriam and felt Munich would be somewhat classier. The book gives an account of the time that has passed since their arrival in Germany and the roads that have led them to this point as they seek to perhaps find some explanation for Miriam’s tragic death.
The man hadn’t seen his sister in five years and has lived in London for over twenty-five. He talks to his father once a month and hasn’t been in America in six years. His father and Miriam rarely spoke and he didn’t see her after she left home some twenty years ago. The lack of communication is a big issue in Baxter’s book. How much contact should we keep with or loved ones? Have we any idea of what’s really going on with them if we aren’t keeping up with the minor details of their lives? In the case of these people there are huge gaps in knowledge. His father’s health has certainly deteriorated since they last met. The geographical distance between them stops them from keeping regular watch on each other.
When the man reaches Miriam’s flat he goes through her things, perhaps looking for something that can give some insight into the life of this sister that he’s now lost forever. He finds some notes in her books and this certainly allows some connection to her thoughts and experiences. It’s something both he and his father do with every book they read but he’d no idea his sister had followed suit. While he’s going over her life in Berlin, he discovers major holes in his knowledge of his sister, things that are so obvious to people that knew Miriam, such as extended time in hospital.
Munich Airport is a totally engrossing work that raises big questions about where we’re all going. We’re often too busy to keep up with the people we care about and we only take stock when something devastating occurs. We’re losing so much of what’s important as people are spread out all over the place. It’s easy to lose touch when there’s so much distance between us but this book is certainly a brilliant wake-up call.
Munich Airport will be published by Penguin on July 3.