March 26, 2007

Crying over Alexie's new novel

History's shock treatmentFew writers grab you by the emotional throat quicker than Sherman Alexie, and he doesn't let go until the end. Actually, not after that, either. "Flight," his first novel in a more than a decade, does it again, taking off with the pace of a rocket, or more accurately a time machine, and landing right on target, in the molten bull's-eye of the human heart.

Under the influence of one of the few characters who sticks with him, a seductive Seattle street kid named Justice, [protagonist Zits] enters the bank lobby with guns in his pockets and looks around for targets of his fuming despair. Then we enter a really wild ride--a "flight" through history as old as the Indian wars and as new as the aftermath of Sept. 11. Zits inhabits the bodies of an FBI agent, an Indian scout, a flight instructor, a street drunk, as all of them play out history's endless cycles of loss, betrayal, rage and revenge.

I won't spoil the ending. It is so unexpected, yet earned and deserved. But I will tell you, right here in the pages of a public newspaper, that I cried at the end. Tears streaming down. Cried like a father and a mother and a child and a baby. And after you read "Flight," if you tell me that didn't happen to you, too, I'll say you're lying.

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