Lifting Off

A Life in Freefall

Karen McLeod

Brimming with vertiginous loops and extreme globe-trotting, this is the account of Karen’s experience flying as cabin crew for British Airways over a 12-year period, and the profound impact that experience had on her life. Told with the wit and verve that characterised her debut novel In Search of the Missing Eyelash, Lifting Off is about seeking identity in a heterosexual world, whilst dealing with the fall-out from fractured family relationships.

When a colleague suggests to Karen that she should hide her sexuality to make others feel comfortable, she has no idea what the personal cost will be. Having come out as a lesbian she goes back in. Whilst gay male cabin crew are accepted, gay women are forced to hide their true selves. Against a backdrop of exotic locations, hotel bars and nightclubs, Karen slowly unravels as the inability to truly be herself begins to impact on her spirit. In essence it’s the story of how Karen came into land. How she learned to look after herself and discovered her true strength. Ultimately, it is about love and creativity: unconventional love for her gay best friend, the rarity and transformative release through lesbian love, and the freeing impact of her dad’s death.

‘LIFTING OFF is an entertaining and at times enlightening read.’ Mail on Sunday

‘After losing her way as an aspiring artist in her 20s, McLeod became a long-haul flight attendant. It was an existence in which the exotic intensity of far-flung destinations was heightened by the job’s party culture and shot circadian rhythms – at least initially. But having recently come out as a lesbian, she was advised to keep quiet about her sexuality, despite the acceptance of gay male cabin crew. Add to that her thwarted artistic yearnings and she seemed set to crash and burn – until love and Alan Bennett helped her find her way home. Atmospheric and idiosyncratic, this is a memoir that entertains and emboldens.’ Hephzibah Anderson, The Observer

‘[An] absorbing and often hilarious account of the author’s 12 years as closeted cabin crew. It’s a story of love, creativity, acceptance, and more.’ The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice

‘Witty, irreverent, deeply felt, and exquisitely written, Lifting Off lifts the lid on one of the strongest performers and authors in queer UK, and in doing so lifts us all. I can’t recommend this extraordinary memoir enough. Stunning.’ Joelle Taylor, T. S. Eliot and Polari Prize winning poet

‘In a deceptively gentle self-evocation, Karen McLeod shares the hard parts and the juicy stuff with warmth and generosity, encouraging us to be part of the discovery of her truths.  A beautiful reminder that we don’t have to carry on a path set in the past, that we are all allowed to reinvent, remake, to flower anew – rarely easy, but always worthwhile’. Stella Duffy

‘Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a literary journey, Karen McLeod’s ‘Lifting Off’ will whisk you away on an emotional and exhilarating ride. As a book reviewer who’s navigated many a narrative, McLeod’s debut memoir is a first class ticket to a story that soars high. An absorbing and often hilarious account of the author’s 12 years as closeted cabin crew for British Airways. It’s a story of love, creativity and acceptance, the transformative power of lesbian love, self acceptance, grief and more… What truly makes ‘Lifting Off’ a standout is McLeod’s ability to blend humor with heartache, creating a narrative that is as entertaining as it is enlightening. All wrapped up in beautiful, artfully polished prose which is as light as it is ruthless.  ‘Lifting Off’ is more than just a book; it’s a celebration of self-discovery and the courage it takes to live authentically and the ability of the honest love from another person to change our minds about ourselves. . McLeod’s book is a beacon of hope for anyone who has ever felt grounded by societal expectations. It’s a reminder that, no matter how turbulent the journey, we all deserve to soar freely… So, dear readers, stow away your doubts and let Karen McLeod’s ‘Lifting Off’ take you on a journey you won’t soon forget. This is one flight where you’ll want to savour every moment, from the thrilling takeoff to the heartfelt landing.’ Scene Magazine,


  • Muswell Press world rights (June 2024)

Material: finished copies and PDF (320pp)