Tag Archives: Coming Of Age

Flight: A Novel by Sherman Alexie

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“Call me Zits,” states the disaffected, acne-afflicted anti-hero at the beginning of Sherman Alexie’s fast-paced, compulsively readable novel ‘Flight.’ Zits, an fifteen-year-old Native American orphan, is shipped off to yet another foster home when he gets into a fight with his foster father and physically attacks him. He is sent to Juvie but escapes with a charismatic boy he met in jail, who brainwashes him into committing a violent crime. In the midst of shooting up a bank, ZIts is shot in the head and transported back in time for reasons unknown to him.

Zits enters the bodies of five different characters, from a mute Indian boy fighting for his life during Custer’s Last Stand to a white pilot grappling with his guilt in a modern day setting. Along the way, Zits sees the intrinsic violence and anger that resides within humanity and the futility of revenge and blame-placing. By the end of it, he is changed for the better- but is it too late?

I already knew Sherman Alexie was a talented writer from back when I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” but what I didn’t expect was to be completely transported by this book. Let me put it this way- usually it takes me weeks to get through a book (I’m a slow reader) and I finished this in two days. “Flight” was funny and made my heart hurt at the same time. You can’t help feeling for this boy, although for all intents and purposes he is not a very sympathetic character (he lies, steals, sets fires, and kills.) He’s never known ‘home’ or ‘family’ or ‘love,’ and most of his foster parents are just in it for the money.

I know it’s a cliche, but he’s built up resistance against an uncaring world. I know nothing about Indian history yet I never felt lost or stupid reading this book, it’s that accessible. The writing is at once conversational and literary; there is no hint of smut or trashiness in the narrative. The events leading up to the shooting are pretty rushed, but that just gets the reader to the fantasy element quicker. It also builds up a sense of confusion and disorientation, Zits doesn’t really know why he wants to commit the crime, all he knows is that he hurts and he wants to make others hurt as he has.

“Flight” is harsh, heartbreaking, strong, unsentimental, and tough. It’s protagonist doesn’t know what he wants, and his fresh, angry voice drives the narrative at breakneck speed. I want to read all of Sherman Alexie’s works now. When I’m reading Alexie, it doesn’t matter than I’m not in the know about poverty or reservation life or Native American woes, because his themes are pretty much universal. I highly recommend this book to all those that like good fiction.

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Broken (2012)

Apparently “Broken” is ‘inspired’ by Harper Lee’s much-loved classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but I find “Broken” to be a better story with more well-developed characters (yes, you have found the one person in the world who isn’t floored by “To Kill A Mockingbird”- don’t stare, please, it makes me nervous.) It’s certainly darker, as Lee’s redemptive tone is replaced with unrepentant bleakness. The racial issues have been traded in, but the themes of injustice and the destruction of innocence remain.

Spirited tween ‘Skunk’ (a powerful and expressive performance by newcomer Eloise Laurence) is stuck in that tricky transition between childhood and adulthood where matters of sexuality and maturity interest her, but are not quite within her grasp. Skunk’s father, Archie (This generation’s Atticus Finch,) (Tim Roth) ┬áis an honorable man who loves his daughter with a fierce intensity but struggles to cope with her youthful antics.

When Skunk’s mentally challenged friend Rick (Robert Emms) is accused of rape and beaten by her redneck neighbor Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear,) Skunk is baffled just as much as Rick is- Rick has never laid a hand on Oswald’s tramp of a daughter, and treats the situation with confusion and astonishment. He is portrayed in a very fine performance by Emms (who I saw just days before as a gay superhero in “Kick-Ass 2”,) who resists the urge to overact and makes the character of Rick his own.

Tim Roth is one of my favorite actors, and he does a good job here, but the entire cast is equally worth mentioning. Eloise Laurence is adorable and charming, but also shows real acting chops as compassionate Skunk. Cillian Murphy (known for films like “Batman Begins” and “28 Days Later) plays Archie’s housekeeper’s love interest, who soon becomes the target of Oswald’s seething rage. He is flawed yet sympathetic, as are most of the characters.

I did think the myriad disasters piling up for Skunk and Rick’s families became a little bit melodramatic and hard to take. After a while it was like… really? Is there anything awful that’s NOT going to happen to these people? There also could have been more build-up in the beginning scenes, instead of revealing everything immediately.

I really liked the character of Skunk. I think the way she treats Rick says everything about her character. She acts totally like he’s a normal person and talks to him accordingly, and never thinks it’s weird that he’s a grown man and they’re friends. And her romance with local boy Dillon (George Sargeant) is appropriately chaste and really cute. She’s a sweet, strong, and hearty girl, with a keen mind and a big heart. I liked the character of Rick too. He’s a nice fellow, a little simple, and his fate saddens me.

“Broken” is a powerful film and I’m not ashamed to say I liked it better than “To Kill A Mockingbird.” So, it’s a classic. Sue me. I hope Eloise Laurence has a big career ahead of her, but she’s not the only rising star in this movie. Not many people can play the ‘mentally handicapped’ role without resorting to theatrics, and Rick is a profoundly sad and likable character. I recommend this film to drama lovers and people to like a sad, touching story.
Rating-
8.0/10