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  • Aloft
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Showing 1-10 of 11 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 71 reviews
on May 15, 2017
The story is fine but the characters had me hoping they would all grow-up. Self absorbed and boring.
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on June 21, 2014
I picked up Chang-rae Lee's Aloft after reading one of his newer books and hearing that his older books were even better. I was not disappointed as Aloft is a well-written account of a fractured but interesting Italian-American family struggling to stay connected in an increasingly complicated world. The book is not a fast-moving one; so don't expect a massive page-turner. But if you stick with it, you will enjoy Lee's exquisite writing style and deep description of the interesting characters found in Aloft.

The story is about the Battle family as told by Jerry Battle. Jerry is basically retired and spends his time in Long Island, NY flying his single engine plane and ruminating on the vicissitudes of life. His first wife died many years ago and his Hispanic-American long-time girlfriend Rita moved out and is now living with his former nerdy lawyer classmate and his Ferrari collection. Jerry's son Jack is running the family landscaping business (into the ground literally) and his daughter Theresa is pregnant and about to be married to one Asia-American name Peter who is basically an out of work writer. Jerry misses Rita and tries to win her back in a series of ways including one that is fairly comical (I'll let you read all about that). Theresa's health is failing. And to top it of, Jerry's father--Pop--is ensconced in a nursing home while bellowing out his views on life and the women surrounding him in the home.

Quite a good book that explores a variety of cultures melding together into a loosely affiliated family. I highly recommend it for fans of Chang-rae Lee as well as anyone who wants a good but not very fast read.
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on February 17, 2017
Unlike Lee’s two previous novels centered around an Asian male, Aloft follows one white, 59 year-old Jerry Battle. But like Lee’s two previous novels, Aloft illuminates the alienating alienness of an inherent, emotionally evasive personality; Jerry Battle quietly abhors conflict so that intimacy is almost an impossibility. Perhaps that is why Lee starts the novel with the exuberant relief Jerry feels with Donnie, his personal propeller, tens to hundreds of thousands of feet away from the nearest warm bodied being.

cf. sooholee.wordpress
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on September 27, 2010
I was surprised at how much I liked this book, and how absorbed I became in it. It was chosen by a book club that I'm in, and I didn't expect to love it so much.

What was it that was so affecting about it? I think it was the cynical, hard-bitten, but humorous voice of the narrator, Jerry Battle. Jerry is pretty aware of his own shortcomings, but by the end of the novel, he has overcome some of them, mainly his aversion to breaking out of his self-absorption long enough to attend to other people's needs. But the other people in his somewhat estranged family have so many crises that he eventually has to give up his narcissism.

I'm not sure this happens very often in real life, but no matter: along the way, Jerry's ruminations about the unpredictability of life, about aging versus youth, and about death and aloneness seemed very real and resonated with my own experience.

Also, Lee's writing is beautiful, even when filtered through the voice of the very unwriterly narrator Jerry.
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Chang-Rae Lee's third novel brilliantly evokes the angst of a man stunted by his own passivity. Jerry Battle, by his own account, is not a fighter. He flies his airplane in only the fairest weather, and usually does so solo since from that height, with no one making demands on him, "everything looks perfect." On the ground, though, his life is less than perfect. He would rather let the woman he loves live with another man than express his true feelings for her. He turns from the implications of his son's extravagance in running the family landscape business, and he prefers to keep his distance from his gruff father. If Jerry sees the signs of imminent destruction, he keeps them to himself, for to bring them to the fore would be to require action on his part. In fact, the last time in his life when he took charge of his personal life, he pushed his wife and the mother of his children to her early death. All in all, he'd rather not know about the crises embroiling his family. However, when his adult daughter breaks some distressing news, all his carefully constructed aloofness begins to crumble.
With wit and insight, Lee has created not only a memorable character, but an unforgettable novel. The interior nature of the first person narrative might disappoint readers looking for more pizzazz to the plot, but the intimacy created as Jerry leads the reader through his thoughts - on everything from his young wife's death to his father's "years of being a pigheaded domineering irascible bull in the china shop of life" to his tender. confused feelings for his son and daughter - makes up for the lack of action. The emotional depth Lee provides is stunningly full. Although the imagery can be heavy-handed with its references to flight and being grounded, Jerry's wry acknowledgment of these elements rescue them. The decadence of contemporary culture and the melting pot of Long Island provide strong foils to this novel essentially about a fifty-nine year old man coming of age.
Admittedly, this excellent novel is not for everyone. Its detailed examination of mundane but revelatory moments might get tedious for some. However, for those who like the quiet realism and intimacy of a man's struggle against his own nature, this will be one of the best novels of 2004.
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on July 28, 2005
This book, the first I've read by Lee, is a delight. The prose is simply wonderful: it's the kind of writing that makes us aware of how beautiful language can be. In addition, Lee's narration contains sharp insights about human behavior and the world in general.

Add to this a story that is engaging and you've got a great book.

The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because of some cliches I saw, particularly in the character of "Pop," a curmudgeonly old "geezer."

Read this book for an engaging story with fine writing.
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on February 8, 2017
Too lengthy and too reflective.
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on October 13, 2012
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on January 19, 2005
In "Aloft", once you have got used to the very lengthy sentences you are rewarded with superb descriptions, each word judiciously chosen. Lee is up there with Cheever, Russo and Updike as a chronicler of the problems and challenges, sadnesses and small pleasures encountered by today's Everyman. I am only annoyed that I have just discovered this superb author. "Aloft" is definitely one of my books of the year (a confident claim, made in mid January). I am now about to purchase and read his other works.
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on February 12, 2010
Lee is an excellent writer, more nuanced than Updike. Strong voice about family relationships and about the complexity of modern American life.
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