It might be long for a letter, but as a novel, Dear American Airlines is refreshingly snappy and sassy…The novel's loose structure allows Miles to riff on everything from 9/11 and middle-age malaise to toilet-stall graffiti and the gecko in Geico commercials, while slyly moving his hero toward something of an epiphany. By the time Bennie finally collapses into Seat 31D, his readers have had quite a journey.
The Washington Post
This crisp yowl of a first novel from Miles, who covers books for Men's Journal and cocktails for the New York Times, finds despairing yet effusive litterateur Benjamin Ford midair in midlife crisis. Bennie is en route from New York, where he shares a cramped apartment with his stroke-disabled mother and her caretaker, to L.A., where he will attend his daughter Stella's wedding. He gets stranded at O'Hare when his connecting flight-along with all others-is unaccountably canceled. In the long, empty hours amid a marooned crowd, Bennie's demand for a refund quickly becomes a scathing yet oddly joyful reflection on his difficult life, and on the Polish novel he is translating. Bennie writes lightly of his "dark years" of drinking, of his failed marriages, about his mother's descent into suicidal madness and about her marriage to Bennie's father, a survivor of a Nazi labor camp. Bennie's father recited Polish poetry for solace during Bennie's childhood, inadvertently setting Bennie's life course; Bennie's command of language as he describes his fellow strandees and his riotous embrace of his own feelings will have readers rooting for him. By the time flights resume, Miles has masterfully taken Bennie from grim resignation to the dazzling exhilaration of the possible. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Benjamin Ford is stuck at O'Hare airport. All flights are cancelled for the night. He begins to write a letter to (appropriately enough) American Airlines to demand a refund. This letter turns out to be an autobiography, a sad story of a life wasted. Addressing the fictional American Airline worker in Houston, he talks about his schizophrenic mother, immigrant father, unhappy wife, and innocent daughter. He details his drinking problem and what his life looks like from within an alcoholic haze. He rails against the fate that doomed his career and that is keeping him from attending his daughter's wedding. When he is not writing, he heads out to the sidewalk to smoke cigarettes and to hear the stories of his fellow refugees. After a soul-searching night, he at last boards a plane and finds the will to go on at 35,000 feet. This first novel is a tale of loss and regret that allows a hint of hope and forgiveness to beckon from the final pages. Recommended for general collections.
Joanna M. Burkhardt
A novel that captures the tedium of being stuck overnight in an airport can't help but become a little tedious in the process. The debut by magazine journalist Miles begins as a rant of complaint, evolves into an existential fable and threatens to become the world's longest suicide note. Ostensibly written by protagonist Bennie Ford, a former poet turned translator, the book makes for a long read, almost as long as the night Bennie spends at O'Hare Airport while trying to fly from his home in New York to his daughter's wedding in Los Angeles. He begins by demanding a refund from the airline, and perhaps an explanation, yet the bulk of the letter finds Bennie doing the explaining. In a series of flashbacks that crisscross all over chronology, he explains his mother's dementia and her troubled marriage to his late father. He explains how he has had no contact with his daughter for some 20 years, until an invitation arrived for her wedding. Actually, for her "commitment ceremony," for he hadn't known until then that she is a lesbian. He explains the circumstances leading to her conception, after he began a relationship with another poet whose attitude toward life-and toward Bennie-became far more pragmatic in the wake of motherhood. He explains his brief marriage (his only one, since he had never married his daughter's mother) and what a mistake it was. He explains his alcoholism, going into great detail over incidents at the bar where he worked and drank. Perhaps it's only coincidence that the air carrier he addresses throughout the book shares initials with the organization that helped him stop drinking, because many of these stories could have been told at an AA meeting. Finally, heintersperses the account of his life with his translation of a novel with some thematic parallels. Bennie tells us more about his night and his life than most would ever want to learn. Agent: Sloan Harris/ICM
Dear American Airlines, Jonathan Miles' debut novel,begins as a scathing letter of complaint from a stranded traveler en route to his estranged daughter's wedding but quickly evolves in to a personal and surprisingly astute rant about life's challenges.
"[Dear American Airlines] a heartfelt exploration of one man's psychic deterioration and the slim reed of hope to which, miraculously, he still clings...Miles has created a human being adrift, like all of us, in circumstances mostly not of his making and with no other choice but to try to muddle through."
-- David Ulin, Los Angeles Times