Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Review: "Flight" by Sherman Alexie

Having just finished "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" (also by Sherman Alexie), I dove right in to "Flight" with some relish.

It was a bit uncanny, in that "Flight", like "Diary", is another coming of age story. "Zits", the main character in flight, has fallen through the cracks, has no family, no friends, and even before his sixteenth birthday is on a downward spiral towards prison or the grave, to become yet another Lee Boyd Malvo, Seung-Hui Cho, or William Morva.

His descent is miraculously halted, and somehow he is ultimately able to reach out and rejoin the world. The narrative device used (which I won't spoil) is a variation on the same type of forced reflection that transforms Scrooge, George Bailey, or Sam Beckett (the character from "Quantum Leap", not the playwright).

What I particularly like about Alexie's variation on the theme is that it allows him to construct a range of vignettes, presenting characters of different races, classes, ages (as in old or young) and ages (as in past or present). In each of these vignettes, Zits learns that although he has the potential for violence, he also still cares about the victims of violence, betrayal, abandonment.

This is a work about the power of empathy to broaden us and help us remember our involvement with the rest of the world. We may be sad and isolated, but we are all human. It's also a more adult work, steeped as it is in the violence of the modern world.

I might not recommend this to younger readers who enjoyed "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", but I would recommend it to nearly everyone else.

No comments: