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Aloftby Chang Rae Lee
"It's early yet...but it seems safe to say that Aloft will be one of the best books of the year. Given the beauty of Chang-rae Lee's previous work, this isn't too surprising....Lee's genius is this confidential voice, full of cultural analysis, ironic asides, sexual candor, and unconscious revelations, laced along through one breathless paragraph after another in improbably extended sentences, perpetually buoyed by wit and insight." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"In 1995, Native Speaker announced itself as one of the most exemplary first novels of the last decade; 1999's A Gesture Life was an elegant meditation on loss and loneliness. They proved Chang-rae Lee a deeply talented and empathetic novelist...who has now written a very bad novel. Aloft, Lee's third book, is so bafflingly hollow, it stings like a well-timed insult." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
Set on affluent Long Island, Aloft follows the life of a suburban, upper-middle-class man during a time of family crisis. Jerry Battle's favorite diversion is to fly his small plane over the neighboring towns and villages. When his daughter and her fiancé arrive from Oregon to announce their marriage plans, he looks back on his life and faces his disengagement with it — his urge to fly solo — and the people he loves.
Chang-rae Lee burst on the scene with Native Speaker, which won numerous awards, including the PEN/Hemingway Award. His second novel, A Gesture Life, established him as one of the preeminent writers of his generation. Now, with Aloft, Lee has expanded his range and proves himself a master storyteller, able to observe his characters' flaws and 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.
"Lee's third novel (after Native Speaker and A Gesture Life) approaches the problems of race and belonging in America from a new angle — the perspective of Jerry Battle, the semiretired patriarch of a well-off (and mostly white) Long Island family. Sensitive but emotionally detached, Jerry escapes by flying solo in his small plane even as he ponders his responsibilities to his loved ones: his irascible father, Hank, stewing in a retirement home; his son, Jack, rashly expanding the family landscaping business; Jerry's graduate student daughter, Theresa, engaged to Asian-American writer Paul and pregnant but ominously secretive; and Jerry's long-time Puerto Rican girlfriend, Rita, who has grown tired of two decades of aloofness and left him for a wealthy lawyer. Jack and Theresa's mother was Jerry's Korean-American wife, Daisy, who drowned in the swimming pool after a struggle with mental illness when Jack and Theresa were children, and Theresa's angry postcolonial take on ethnicity and exploitation is met by Jerry's slightly bewildered efforts to understand his place in a new America. Jerry's efforts to win back Rita, Theresa's failing health and Hank's rebellion against his confinement push the meandering narrative along, but the novel's real substance comes from the rich, circuitous paths of Jerry's thoughts — about family history and contemporary culture — as his family draws closer in a period of escalating crisis. Lee's poetic prose sits well in the mouth of this aging Italian-American whose sentences turn unexpected corners. Though it sometimes seems that Lee may be trying to embody too many aspects of 21st-century American life in these individuals, Jerry's humble and skeptical voice and Lee's genuine compassion for his compromised characters makes for a truly moving story about a modern family. Agent, Amanda Urban. Foreign rights sold in France, Germany, Holland and the U.K. (Mar.) Forecast: Comparable to Updike's later Rabbit novels and Begley's About Schmidt, Aloft broadens Lee's scope and should bump his sales and reputation up another notch." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A brilliant and candid parsing of the dynamics of a family of mixed heritage... a ribald look at male sexuality, a charming celebration of the solace of good food, and a sagacious and bitingly funny critique of our times." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Beautiful writing, richly drawn characters, and a powerful sense of life enduring in spite of all. A fine and very moving performance." Kirkus Reviews
"Lee has dreamed up an intricate, ingratiating character and brought him halfway to life. But there is enough life in Jerry...that half is almost enough, and certainly better than nothing." A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review
Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more. . . . With On Such a Full Sea, [Chang-rae Lee] has found a new way to explore his old preoccupation: the oft-told tale of the desperate, betraying, lonely human heart.”—Andrew Sean Greer, The New York Times Book Review
I've never been a fan of grand hyperbolic declarations in book reviews, but faced with On Such a Full Sea, I have no choice but to ask: Who is a greater novelist than Chang-rae Lee today?”—Porochista Khakpour, The Los Angeles Times
From the beloved award-winning author of Native Speaker and The Surrendered, a highly provocative, deeply affecting story of one womans legendary quest in a shocking, future America.
On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lees elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.
In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class—descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China—find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.
In this world lives Fan, a female fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore), when the man she loves mysteriously disappears. Fans journey to find him takes her out of the safety of B-Mor, through the anarchic Open Counties, where crime is rampant with scant governmental oversight, and to a faraway charter village, in a quest that will soon become legend to those she left behind.
The New York Timesbestselling 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.
About the Author
Chang-rae Lee, the author of A Gesture Life and Native Speaker, was selected by the New Yorker as one of the twenty best writers under the age of forty. He teaches creative writing at Princeton University.
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