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The New York Times-bestselling novel by the critically acclaimed author of Native Speaker and A Gesture Life.At 59, Jerry Battle is coasting through life. His favorite pastime is flying his small plane high above Long Island. Aloft, he can escape from the troubles that plague his family, neighbors, and loved ones on the ground. But he can't stay in the air forever. Only months before his 60th birthday, a culmination of family crises finally pull Jerry down from his emotionally distant course. Jerry learns that his family's stability is in jeopardy. His father, Hank, is growing increasingly unhappy in his assisted living facility. His son, Jack, has taken over the family landscaping business but is running it into bankruptcy. His daughter, Theresa, has become pregnant and has been diagnosed with cancer. His longtime girlfriend, Rita, who helped raise his children, has now moved in with another man. And Jerry still has unanswered questions that he must face regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of his late wife. Since the day his wife died, Jerry has turned avoiding conflict into an art form-the perfect expression being his solitary flights from which he can look down on a world that appears serene and unscathed. From his comfortable distance, he can't see the messy details, let alone begin to confront them. But Jerry is learning that in avoiding conflict, he is also avoiding contact with the people he loves most.
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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:
'The prose Lee writes is elliptical, riddling, poetic - beautifully made.' The New Yorker
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