The only book by Sherman Alexie I’d listened to before Flight (or read, for that matter) was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but I knew I wanted to read more. Cass of Bonjour, Cass! mentioned that fans of one might be fans of the other, so I borrowed Flight on audio from my library.
About the Book:
Zits is not what you’d call a good kid. He fights with his foster parents and has run away from a rapid succession of foster homes. He gets drunk with homeless bums on the streets of Seattle. He’s been in and out of jail plenty of times. It’s clear he’s headed down a bad road. And he’s only fifteen.
Zits’s real name isn’t Zits, but that’s the nickname he’s adopted because of his acne, and that’s what everyone calls him–even the cops, who pick him up so often they know him by name. Zits never knew his father, an Indian and an alcoholic who left when Zits was born; his Irish mother died of breast cancer when Zits was a kid. He has no one.
That’s about all we know about Zits initially. But throughout what happens next, we get to know him very well indeed.
Flight is a perfect example of why I prefer to know as little as possible about a book going into it, and of why I try to keep my book summaries on Erin Reads right at the beginning of a book. I had no idea what to expect from Flight. I assumed I knew what to expect from it after listening to the first couple of chapters. I was so wrong.
There were moments, listening to Flight, that I literally got chills. One of the things that impresses me most about Sherman Alexie is that he is not afraid to be bold. He does not sugar coat or sweet talk. His writing is raw and honest and penetratingly truthful. He can do things that would seem cheesy or contrived if anyone else tried them, but when he does them, you sit up and pay attention. You are enthralled.
Flight, like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, masterfully takes you inside the mind of its protagonist. You know what he is experiencing, because he makes you experience it with him. Zits (Flight) is more troubled than Junior (True Diary) is, more extreme, more prone to violence, but no more or less human. They are both characters of the highest caliber, crafted by an author who clearly knows what he is doing.
I was leery of listening to anyone by Alexie read a novel by Alexie, because of how much I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and how amazingly Alexie read it. Adam Beach read Flight, and he did so spectacularly. As fully as Alexie became Junior, Beach became Zits. Beach far surpassed my expectations and produced a fantastic audiobook.
Basically? I loved Flight. It’s got a sharper edge to it than The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian does, and I’ll probably be more likely to recommend True Diary as a first Alexie novel when asked. But for myself, I love them both. As a second Alexie novel? Flight, absolutely.
Alexie fans: what do I read next?