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
"Though race and identity once again play a part in Lee's work, Aloft, is set mostly in the world of bland privilege, and the narrative seems a composite of Wally Lamb, Anne Tyler and Richard Ford." San Francisco Chronicle
"Lee writes with humor and acuity, swirling comic wit and subtlety into scenes so mundane and yet so poignant that the heart sighs in recognition." USA Today
"[Lee] could have played it safe and continued writing about angst-driven Koreans. But in Aloft, he proves that he can evoke the desires and disappointments of the suburban territory mapped by Cheever, Yates and Updike with similar artistry and compassion." Miami Herald
"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
"The mere existence of Aloft
a novel to shelve near Updike's Rabbit quartet and Philip Roth's more recent, captivating fare made all of my bullshit multicultural predispositions fall from the sky in one scary, satisfying piece....Which is to say that Chang-rae Lee's witheringly precise capture of who we are now, including all of the textures and complexities of our multicultural nation/project, makes this novel an exhilarating read." Ted Weesner Jr., The Cincinnati Review
(read the entire review from the Cincinnati Review
First time in paperback. The New York Times
bestseller from the author of A Gesture Life and Native Speaker
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.