It is September 1940—a year into the war—and as German bombs fall on Britain, fears grow of an impending invasion. Enemy fighter planes blacken the sky around the Epping Forest home of Susan Shepherd and her grandfather, Bertie. After losing her parents to influenza as a child, Susan found comfort in raising homing pigeons with Bertie. All her birds are extraordinary to Susan—loyal, intelligent, beautiful—but none more so than Duchess. Hatched from an egg that Susan incubated in a bowl under her grandfather’s desk lamp, Duchess shares a special bond with Susan and an unusual curiosity about the human world.
Thousands of miles away in Buxton, Maine, young crop-duster pilot Ollie Evans decides to join Britain’s Royal Air Force. His quest brings him to Epping and the National Pigeon Service, where Susan is involved in a new, covert mission to air-drop hundreds of homing pigeons in German-occupied France. Many will not survive. Those that do will bring home crucial information. Soon a friendship between Ollie and Susan deepens, but when his plane is downed behind enemy lines, both know how remote the chances of reunion must be. Yet Duchess will become an unexpected lifeline, relaying messages between Susan and Ollie as war rages on—and proving, at last, that hope is never truly lost.
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