Dear American Airlines

February 15, 2009

                                           Miles, Jonathan. Dear American Airlinesdearaa. 2008. (Fiction Miles.J)

This debut novel by Jonathan Miles hinges on a simple premise which gradually unfolds to reveal a book that manages to be both subtly moving and extraordinarily hilarious. Benjamin Ford is an ex-alcoholic, ex-poet, and ex-husband two times over. Left in the wake of his years of drinking were the two Stellas: his first wife, much embittered and estranged, and their daughter whom he barely knew. Now that daughter is grown and getting married and offering Bennie the merest shred of redemption for begging out of his own life and hers in the form of a wedding invitation. All Bennie has to do is get there, but the employees of American Airlines have other ideas. Stranded at O’Hare with all flights grounded and the time clock ticking on his last best chance, Bennie picks up a pen and a piece of paper and begins to rage and seethe on the page, hurling verbal Molotov cocktails in the general direction of the good folks at the corporate offices of the titular airline. As the hours grind by with no progress or prospect of leaving the airport anytime soon, Bennie’s letter slowly begins to shift some of the blame over his circumstances from the airline to himself, as his missive becomes more or less the story of his life. Rehashing and reevaluating the memories and mistakes that led him to his current situation, Bennie tries for the first time in his life to come clean with someone, anyone, even if it is only the faceless, nameless corporate cubicle drone somewhere at the AA headquarters whom he imagines someday poring over his letter. While the novel is rife with regret and heartbreak, it is also one of the funniest books in recent memory. In addition to American Airlines, Bennie’s impotent fury takes aim at modern American culture at large as he skewers his fellow strandees with precise and acidic hilarity. This brief book is very dark, very funny, and very much a product of our current cultural climate. If this modern world fills you with some combination of confusion, dread, and rage, this book may just be the temporary antidote you’ve been looking for.  (Andy R., Reader’s Services)


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