Customer Review

63 of 83 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Dear American Airlines: A Novel (Hardcover)
The first thing prospective readers should know, is that even though the story places the protagonist/author Benjamin "Benny" Ford in O'Hare Airport, eighty-percent of the story has nothing to do with the agonies of a delayed flight. As a constant nationwide traveler myself, when I heard about this book, I immediately imagined unlimited humorous plots and sub-plots all at the expense of the un-caring Airline industry and its echoing tentacles that encompass security, parking, bathrooms, etc. I envisioned myself (and other travelers like me) laughing, yelling, and pointing accusatory fingers at the hapless and sadistic airline characters portrayed in the book as I shrieked: "I told you I wasn't the only one who asked for a pillow"... "I wasn't the only one who wondered why the airlines wouldn't tell you where your connecting gates were located as the plane is pulling into a gate"... "or betting the passenger seated next to me that the attendant they promised would be waiting at the gate to help you with connections wouldn't be there..." etc. As I said, maybe twenty-per-cent of the story relates to the actual flight and airport.

But what the author does do, very intelligently and cleverly, is use the excuse of a delayed flight to start writing a letter to American Airlines to ask for his $392.68 to be refunded, since during the delay he figured he would not be able to get to Los Angeles in time for his daughter's wedding. His flight which started in New York and was supposed to have a forty-five minute layover in Chicago, instead was forced to land in Peoria and taken by bus to O'Hare Airport where the delay lasted for indeterminable hours through the night. The letter starts off "requesting" a refund, but quickly changes to "demanding" a refund. And from there is where the author (through the letter) proceeds to tell his entire sordid life story, despite being stuck in an airport, which he returns the reader to not frequently enough. Benny is a recovering alcoholic, failed poet, whose drinking ended his first marriage, which had produced the child whose wedding he is attempting to go to in Los Angeles, despite the fact that until he received the announcement, he hadn't seen or talked to his daughter since she was an infant and her mother grabbed her and fled in an attempt to escape the alcoholic destruction that Benny called a life. Along with the date and location of the wedding, Benny also was informed that his estranged daughter was marrying a woman.

If you have ever met a person at a bar or at a party, who is not only drunk, but "amped-up" on cocaine or any type of speed, and by simply saying hello, you have activated a non-stop-high-speed, at times extremely interesting and somewhat amusing, story of their life... but every decade or so of his story... he veers off the road... or takes the wrong off ramp... or finds (to him) interesting tangents that may involve a blemish on the wall... well... if you have... then the author's writing style will seem familiar to you. Don't get me wrong, there are some lyrically beautiful and cleverly written passages such as the first time he talks on the phone to his adult daughter: "WE LAUGHED TOGETHER AT THAT ONE, WHICH FELT GOOD - A SQUIRT OF OIL IN THE DECAYED AND RUSTED JOINTS OF OUR BOND." Or after he received the invitation in the mail which was the first connection between Father and daughter since infancy: "...AS IF I'D FOUND THE PALE CRUMB OF A TRAIL LEADING BACK TO MY LIFE. "Or after the first phone call between them had ended he summarized to himself: "AT TIMES OUR CONVERSATION WAS SO LIGHT AND EASY THAT IT DISTURBED ME; WITH THAT MUCH WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE, IT, WAS HARD TO BELIEVE THE BRIDGE COULD STILL BE STANDING." What derails the adrenaline fueled poetry is the author periodically (actually a little more than periodic) changing gears completely by leaving the currently discussed time and place crisis in his life story, and then he starts TRANSLATING A POLISH BOOK about Walenty Mozelewski and his war injury induced wooden leg.

This is obviously a very talented writer, but I feel wholeheartedly that this book could have been much better. He had a "sitting-duck" in the airline industry that he could have pulverized, but he barely touched them, and when the reader's emotions were vulnerable and in the palm of his hand, he would abruptly switch to Polish translation regarding Walenty and his wooden leg.
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 12, 2008 8:31:44 AM PDT
Thanks for the thorough review, Rick. I saw this book at a store, and just looking at the cover, thought it was about a passenger's woes. I was going to buy it because like most people, I've had a few bad experiences myself. I just got distracted and forgot about it. Good thing I read your write-up---little did I know!

[BTW, I deeply appreciate your sincere email to me and I know you to be an honest reviewer. Unfortunately, there are those who wish the whistle-blowers to just disappear and would use questionable arguments to bolster their beliefs.]

I'll be purchasing the book you recommended very soon and hope our paths will often cross in the future. My very best to you and your son!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2008 12:49:32 PM PDT
Baking Enthusiast:

Thanks so much for your positive review; it means an awful lot because your writing talent is above and beyond the norm and like a breath of fresh air to me.

More importantly, I am so glad you responded the way I hoped you would to the other message. The fact that it got through (like I said I never did that before.) and you responded the way you did... literally touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. You've made my day!

Posted on Jan 6, 2009 8:41:42 AM PST
Maybe Mr. Goldstein and friends would benefit from taking his expectations a bit less seriously and enjoying someone else's creativity a bit more.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2009 10:36:08 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2009 10:38:13 AM PST
I don't really know what the heck the point of your comment is but that's life.
And in retrospect I guess that's better than understanding what you mean and being upset.

Posted on Mar 5, 2010 6:46:57 AM PST
Ummm....I think you missed the point.

Posted on Mar 25, 2010 11:46:14 AM PDT
I thought your review of Dear American Airlines was very insightful. I had a similar reaction to it. I read it because I received some feedback from people in the publishing world that my novel, One Last Thing to Do Before I Die (available on Amazon), is similar to DAA in style and tone. After reading DAA, I think it is, by my novel is a more detailed examination of the absurdity of American culture and more thought-provoking. As a frequent reviewer on Amazon, I'd be curious to get your opinion - and I respect that you are committed to reviewing books with integrity. If you read my novel, you will understand better why. I'd be happy to send you a copy if you are interested in reading it.

Please let me know.

Best regards,

Steven Drew Goldberg
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