First Line: Call me Zits.
I first became a fan of Sherman Alexie when I watched the film Smoke Signals. The fandom intensified when I read Indian Killer. Now that I've read Flight, I may just graduate to waving his books in the faces of everyone I meet, exclaiming, "You gotta read these!" Alexie is a powerful, imaginative writer with a talent for making readers see other people, other cultures, in a whole new--and very real-- way.
Everyone in Flight calls the main character "Zits", and if you wonder how Zits thinks of himself, he'll tell you:
"I'm a blank sky, a human solar eclipse."
Zits is half Indian, half Irish. His alcoholic father took off when he was born. His mother died when he was six. His aunt kicked him out when he was ten after he set her boyfriend on fire. (Don't feel too bad for the boyfriend; he was a pedophile.) Now he's fifteen. He's been in twenty foster homes and twenty-two schools. He has barely enough clothes to fit in a backpack. He's a throwaway kid, and he wants revenge, so one day he takes a gun and walks into a bank...and begins a series of adventures in time travel. No time machine for Zits; the gun is the catalyst for his stints as a mute Indian boy during the Battle of the Little Big Horn, an FBI agent, an Indian tracker, an airplane pilot instructor, and his own father. His desire for revenge rapidly becomes an ongoing lesson in empathy.
The book had barely begun when I fell for Zits hook, line and sinker. What did he say? Something that every passionate reader will understand:
"I bet you a million dollars there are less than five books in this whole house. What kind of life can you have in a house without books?"
Alexie's skilled pen makes Zits anything but a throwaway kid in the reader's mind. I empathized with this lonely young boy, my heart broke when his broke, I became angry when he did. As Zits time-traveled, his attitude began to change, and I found myself hoping with all my heart that he no longer thought of himself as worthless; that someone somewhere would see how valuable he was.
What better thing can you say about a writer than that you were totally involved in what happened to his fictional character? That, for a short period of time, you were transported miles away from your comfort zone and confronted with people totally alien to you, and that you began to care, to get angry, and to be compelled to do something?
Great book. For such a quick read it really grabs your attention right away and packs so much into a short story. Read only if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to be transported with the protagonist through time and space, it's a fantastical and powerful journey.