While many people think of summer as a leisurely time to tackle long books, the opposite is true for the majority of the women in my book group. Summer is a pretty crazy time, especially if you did what I did this summer and scoffed at the cost of day camps and decided that "Mommy-Camp" would be just as much fun and cheaper (I did send them both to camp last week--Ian full-day and Fiona half-day and man was it nice to have a little break from each other). Coming up with interesting stuff for a 7 and 4 year old takes a hell of a lot of time and energy, so a good, fast moving book is always appreciated.
Flight, by Sherman Alexie, was a really wonderful book which was also really fast read. Zits is a really compelling character--funny and perceptive, but wild and scary in the way that only a lost adolescent can be. This mix makes the massacre at the bank all too easy to understand. Without Zits' voice--bewildered, funny, smart, hurt--the book could spiral into a depressing soup of the worst humanity has to offer: oppression, deception and violence. But instead, throughout the time travel incidents, Alexie manages to show Zits' longing for contact and trust, while never dropping the defenses and suspicions of a damaged adolescent.
The group all agreed that the relatively happy ending helped a lot and we could have seen a totally different ending plunging the book into despair. But Zits' sharp sense of humor kept it from feeling too sentimental when things do seem to work out.
We also had some interesting questions about what we guessed was the writer's process. Ami and I felt that the book might have come in a rush and wasn't cut much from draft to draft; the voice felt so pure and consistent, I could only imagine Alexie inhabiting this consciousness for a finite period of time to keep it from being watered down. But Meagan thought the original manuscript was probably4 or 5 times the length of the book, with many more time travel incidents, and then Alexie pared it down a great deal. Obviously, we don't know the answer to these questions, but it was fun to talk about the process of writing and not just the product.
Food-wise there wasn't a lot to go on--a couple of references to gloppy oatmeal in a foster home and a guy picking through a garbage can for food. Zits' quest is about his identity as half Native American and half Irish so we figured that was an open ended invitation to focus on the bounty of summer and go with a kind of local, fresh vegetable and fruit based cuisine. And here is what our groaning table looked like:
Counter clockwise from the top left--trout and wild rice with ginger, scallion, sake sauce, tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese, olives, pine nuts, basil and bread crumbs, calabacitas (summer squash and roasted chilies sauteed with sharp cheddar), a salad with lots of peppery arugula and beets, pasta salad and a bowl of cherries.
And not pictured on the table is the sweet corn and hominy chowder:
and the peach black raspberry crisp:
It was all fabulous (of course!) and we ate and drank a lot of wine until the mosquitoes descended (though it was nicely mosquito-free for most of the night).
The next book we plan to read is Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. I read the book back in January and loved it, but haven't had anyone to talk it over with and there is lots there to talk about.