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Being a solo flyer made sense to Jerry Battle right from the start. For his 56th birthday, his longtime (and recently ex-) girlfriend Rita Reyes had given him a gift certificate for a flying lesson. Once Jerry was up there he thought, 'here was the little space I was looking for, my private box seat in the world and completely outside of it too.' From a half-mile over the earth, everything looked perfect to Jerry. But everything isn't perfect and for such a nice guy, Jerry could wreak an amazing amount of havoc Life is about to deal Jerry Battle his toughest hand yet. With his ailing father yearning to flee his 'Ivy Acres Life Care Centre' and his son teetering on bankruptcy, and, for once, no woman in his life to rely on, Jerry's daughter is about to bestow on him a father's worst nightmare. But maybe Jerry Battle needs to finally work out what it is that separates him from his loved ones and be tugged back to earth to engage with one of the most compelling and unforgettable of family dramas. With Aloft, Chang-rae Lee proves himself a master storyteller, rivalling Updike, Roth and Ford, able to observe his characters' weaknesses and, at the same time, celebrate their humanity. Aloft is an unforgettable portrait, filled with vitality and urgency, of a man who has secured his life's dreams but who must now figure out its meaning.
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Chang-Rae Lee, named by The New Yorker as one of its 20 writers for the 21st century, has confirmed his place in that company with Aloft, a masterful treatment of a man coming to terms with his own disaffection. In two previous novels, Native Speaker and A Gesture Life, Lee, a Korean-American, writes of lives being not what they seem: in the first, the protagonist is an undercover agent; in the second, the two halves of Franklin Hata's life never quite come together. Both novels won numerous awards, including Best First Novel, the Hemingway PEN Award, the American Book Award and the Asian-American Literary Award, among others. In Aloft, Lee revisits alienation, a fractured family, mixed heritage and the quest for identity.
Jerry Battle, 59-year-old widower and father of two, retired from the family business--the unmistakably earthbound Battle Brothers Brick and Mortar--buys a small plane because "From up here, a half mile above the Earth, everything looks perfect to me." All is not well below. Jerry knows it, saying "the recurring fantasy of my life...is one of perfect continuous travel, this unending hop from one point to another, the pleasures found not in the singular marvels of any destination but in the constancy of serial arrivals and departures, and the comforting companion knowledge that you'll never quite get intimate enough for any trouble to start brewing". His view from aloft saves him from the gritty reality of the detritus of life--and from life itself.
This high-flyer must come to earth, however, when he finds that his daughter is newly pregnant, diagnosed with cancer and refusing treatment; his son, who is running the company, has piled up so much debt that bankruptcy is imminent; and his father has gone missing from his assisted living facility. Jerry can no longer say, with impunity, "Jerry Battle hereby declines the Real". Lee takes us on great side trips into the pleasures of food and recreational sex, his wife Daisy's death and his longtime lover Rita's almost endless patience. He weaves long, Miltonic sentences that start in one place and end up miles away--flights of fancy--trailing clouds of insight and poignancy. With Aloft Lee just keeps getting better. --Valerie Ryan, Amazon.comReview:
'A writer of immense subtlety and craft.' Guardian 'The prose Lee writes is elliptical, riddling, poetic - beautifully made.' The New Yorker 'Chang-Rae Lee, named by The New Yorker as one of its 20 writers for the 21st Century, has confirmed his place in that company with Aloft, a masterful treatment of a man coming to terms with his own disaffection.' Amazon.com '...an accomplished, easygoing, gorgeously written, near-miss masterpiece about a middle-aged Italian-American on New York's Long Island.' USA Today
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