Flight

by Sherman Alexie
ISBN: 9780802170378

This book shouldn’t work. If I were to describe to you what happens and how it happens, you might think it sounds over the top, or unpleasantly didactic. You might think Alexie is more preacher than writer, more of a screecher than a poet with an ear for the truth. You might even think the story sounds like the kind of thing you’d see on television — possibly one of those movie of the week deals, or if you were only half-listening to me, something on PBS. Too predictable, you’d say. Too obvious.

Thing is, you’d be wrong.

You’d be wrong, because Alexie grabs you and doesn’t let you go. His narrator is so painfully, awkwardly real you can’t help but get caught up in his story. He’s lonely and angry and confused — and he’s also violent and falling from the present moment through history and back again. He’s Zits, a teenager with painfully erupting acne who bounces around the foster care system, without a family, without even “legal” status an Indian. He’s also an FBI agent, a soldier, a mute Indian child, a pilot, and a homeless drunk.

There’s a sense of excitement that builds in me when I’m reading a really good book, one where the writer is reaching for something really big, almost too big, and I get this feeling in my gut that he or she is going to pull it off. Reading Flight, I had that feeling from the early pages through to the end — the end that broke open something in my chest and made me cry.

If you haven’t read any of Alexie’s work yet, this brilliant book is a great place to start. If you despair of ham-handed attempts to deal with Serious Issues in literature, you’ll find this is different — it’s righteous, not self-righteous. Highly recommended.

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