Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flight by Sherman Alexie

Part of starting up Luke Reviews was to read books that aren’t quite in my usual repertoire. This has been something that has greatly expanded my reading enjoyment. Books like Killer Summer, Bad Things Happen, The Hidden Man, and a number of others fall into a realm where I don’t read much, and directly contributed to other books I picked up afterwards, like The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Keeping that in mind, here is another book that is a little off the radar. It has a fantastical plot element, to be sure, although that isn’t the point of the plot.

Zits isn’t happy. After his father abandoned him and his mother died, he has gone from foster home to foster home, never settling down, never living a good life. After repeatedly going to jail, he finally bumps into Justice, another inmate and the first person Zits felt really cared for him since the death of his mom. However, Justice is brainwashing Zits, culminating in the unthinkable: Zits walks into a bank and guns down every person inside. But as he is shot in the head by guards, he falls back in time, and begins an odyssey that explores hate, violence, forgiveness, and love.

Sherman Alexie is right up there with Leslie Marmon Silko and James Welch among Native American writers. Having read books from each of the others, Alexie brings the tale of race and difference and wanting to belong without having to be what you aren’t to a far more human and wonderful level. His character sees the conflict from both Native American and white perspectives, and is far from the gross stereotypes of either violent warmonger of noble savage that seems so common in modern fiction.

The story is very episodic, yet each episode flows into the other in a very organic way, making complete sense and fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. As each trip in the past gives Zits a more complex picture of the world, he shows a breadth of change that is quite vast, yet never feels unnatural. In a very short novel, Alexie makes his character accessible and human, and doesn’t have to sacrifice the story to do so.

This was a definite step outside the box for Luke Reviews, but strongly recommended. It is a slightly different offering, yet it still does contain the action and adventure that you see in most Luke Reviews titles. But like the best of those reviewed here, it surpasses genre, and is a good story.


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