I’m slowly flipping out. Enough about me…
I just finished Aloft by Chang Rae Lee. Thumbs up!
From the review section on Amazon (Debbie Lee Wesselmann – author of the review):
Chang-Rae Lee’s third novel brilliantly evokes the angst of a man stunted by his own passivity. Jerry Battle, by his own account, is not a fighter. He flies his airplane in only the fairest weather, and usually does so solo since from that height, with no one making demands on him, “everything looks perfect.” On the ground, though, his life is less than perfect. He would rather let the woman he loves live with another man than express his true feelings for her. He turns from the implications of his son’s extravagance in running the family landscape business, and he prefers to keep his distance from his gruff father. If Jerry sees the signs of imminent destruction, he keeps them to himself, for to bring them to the fore would be to require action on his part. In fact, the last time in his life when he took charge of his personal life, he pushed his wife and the mother of his children to her early death. All in all, he’d rather not know about the crises embroiling his family. However, when his adult daughter breaks some distressing news, all his carefully constructed aloofness begins to crumble.
With wit and insight, Lee has created not only a memorable character, but an unforgettable novel. The interior nature of the first person narrative might disappoint readers looking for more pizzazz to the plot, but the intimacy created as Jerry leads the reader through his thoughts – on everything from his young wife’s death to his father’s “years of being a pigheaded domineering irascible bull in the china shop of life” to his tender. confused feelings for his son and daughter – makes up for the lack of action. The emotional depth Lee provides is stunningly full. Although the imagery can be heavy-handed with its references to flight and being grounded, Jerry’s wry acknowledgment of these elements rescue them. The decadence of contemporary culture and the melting pot of Long Island provide strong foils to this novel essentially about a fifty-nine year old man coming of age.
Admittedly, this excellent novel is not for everyone. Its detailed examination of mundane but revelatory moments might get tedious for some. However, for those who like the quiet realism and intimacy of a man’s struggle against his own nature, this will be one of the best novels of 2004.