Aloft by Chang-rae Lee

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The New York Times–bestselling novel by the critically acclaimed author of Native Speaker and A Gesture Life.

At 59, Jerry Battle is coasting through life. His favorite pastime is flying his small plane high above Long Island. Aloft, he can escape from the troubles that plague his family, neighbors, and loved ones on the ground. But he can't stay in the air forever. Only months before his 60th birthday, a culmination of family crises finally pull Jerry down from his emotionally distant course.

Jerry learns that his family's stability is in jeopardy. His father, Hank, is growing increasingly unhappy in his assisted living facility. His son, Jack, has taken over the family landscaping business but is running it into bankruptcy. His daughter, Theresa, has become pregnant and has been diagnosed with cancer. His longtime girlfriend, Rita, who helped raise his children, has now moved in with another man. And Jerry still has unanswered questions that he must face regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of his late wife.

Since the day his wife died, Jerry has turned avoiding conflict into an art form-the perfect expression being his solitary flights from which he can look down on a world that appears serene and unscathed. From his comfortable distance, he can't see the messy details, let alone begin to confront them. But Jerry is learning that in avoiding conflict, he is also avoiding contact with the people he loves most.


About Chang-rae Lee

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CHANG-RAE LEE is the author of Native Speaker, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction, A Gesture Life, and Aloft. Selected by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best writers under forty, Chang-rae Lee teaches writing at Princeton University.
Published March 1, 2005 by Riverhead. 384 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Aloft

Kirkus Reviews

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We feel we know everything about decent, caring Jerry (still hungry for life—and quite reminiscent of several John Updike narrators), gutsy Theresa (whose serious illness threatens her pregnancy and her life), Paul’s quiet strength, Rita’s spirited independence, Jack’s frustrating combination of ...

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Publishers Weekly

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Lee's third novel (after Native Speaker and A Gesture Life ) approaches the problems of race and belonging in America from

Mar 01 2004 | Read Full Review of Aloft

The Guardian

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Aloft by Chang-rae Lee 343pp, Bloomsbury, £16.99 The previous fiction of Chang-rae Lee, who was named among the New Yorker's 20 best young American novelists in 2003, viewed America through the watchful eyes of the recent arrival or outsider - an Asian American undercover detective in Native Sp...

Jul 03 2004 | Read Full Review of Aloft

Publishers Weekly

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Lee's third novel (after Native Speaker and A Gesture Life ) approaches the problems of race and belonging in America from a new angle—the perspective of Jerry Battle, the semiretired patriarch of a well-off (and mostly white) Long Island family.

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BC Books

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In addition to considering that the Cheever character "perhaps suffers a perennial state of upper-middle-class drunkenness," Lee's main character also tellingly allows for the possibility for the "spiritual disillusion" of a "secret swimmer who, if he could choose, might always go silent and unse...

Dec 09 2005 | Read Full Review of Aloft

Book Reporter

Jerry Battle is almost 60 and semi-retired from Battle Brothers Brick and Mortar, a company his father, who is living unhappily in a retirement home, took great pride in.

Jan 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Aloft

USA Today

Three days a week Jerry works as a travel agent, sending people off on his fantasy "of perfect continuous travel, this unending hop from one point to another, the pleasures found not in the singular marvels of any destination but in the constancy of serial arrivals and departures, and the comfort...

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Bookmarks Magazine

Paul Di Filippo Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars "Like Richard Ford in Independence Day, Lee is extremely adept at satirizing this uniquely American and relentless obsession with real estate and home improvement, epitomized in Aloft by Battle’s son and wife and their nouveaux riches friends.

Oct 23 2009 | Read Full Review of Aloft


Born in Seoul, Korea, Lee arrived in the United States in 1968 at age three with his mother and his sister to join Lee’s father in Pittsburgh, where the elder Lee was completing his residency in psychiatry.

Sep 01 2004 | Read Full Review of Aloft

New York Magazine

(There’s a Chang-rae Lee character, a Korean-American novelist married to Jerry Battle’s daughter, who says, “I guess if you put a gun to my head I’d say he writes about the Problem of Sort of Being Himself, which is to say the problem of being Asian and American and Thoughtful and Male.”) As it ...

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