Flyin' High

The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach. Ask Wally Chubb.

People do the strangest things for love.

This is the premise of Ben Sherwood's utterly enjoyable novel, "The Man Who Ate The 747", a story in which you will encounter a completely unforgettable cast of characters and situations. J. J. Smith is a record-keeper, an impartial observer of the biggest, the fastest, the longest and the strangest humanity has to offer. In his job as keeper of the Book Of Records, he journeys to exotic places in search of the ultimate record, the feat that will grab the world's attention and everlasting awe.

Unfortunately, he hasn't been doing too well, a fact brought rudely home when he returns from a failed trip to verify the world's longest kiss in Paris. His boss wants him to find a unique new record - or find another job. Desperately scanning the millions of letters he receives every day, J. J. Smith reads about Wally Chubb, a man in Nebraska who is eating his way through a Boeing 747 to prove his love for Willa Wyatt, the editor of the local paper.

Smith jumps on a plane to Nebraska to verify the lead, and is astounded to find that the story is true. And as he joins the good folk of Superior, Nebraska, in cheering their man on to success, Smith meets and falls in love with Willa Wyatt, turning his world (and his calculations) upside down and teaching him that there's more to love than just neurons and chemical secretions.

Written in the best traditions of American story-telling, " The Man Who Ate The 747" is a touching fable about the search for true love, and the lengths people will go to find it and keep it. Sherwood, a senior producer at NBC, does a great job of making us feel for the simple rural folk of Superior, Nebraska, and his empathy with his main protagonists rings true throughout the story. By turns uplifting, affectionate, humourous and wry, this "story of the greatest love, ever" is an intensely satisfying read, and one not to be missed.

This article was first published on 21 Mar 2001.