(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In his third novel, Aloft, Chang-rae Lee moved even further away from his reflection on contemporary Asian American immigrant life in New York City that established his literary fame. Aloft begins similarly to Lee’s second work, A Gesture Life, with an older male character apparently in full control of his life.

Flying in sunny weather above the suburban landscape around New York City, Jerry Battle congratulates himself on his decision to turn over his family landscaping business to his son Jack and retire, freeing up his time to fly or work as a part-time travel agent. At first there is only a hint at his immigrant experience when he confesses to having Americanized his Italian last name of Battaglia to Battle.

With his own cranky father in a nursing home, his son and his materialistic wife and two spoiled children the heirs to his business, and his daughter Theresa engaged to a Korean American writer in Oregon, Battle does appear to enjoy retirement; his children treat him amicably. The only trouble is the fact that Rita, his Puerto Rican girlfriend of twenty years, has recently left him because of his emotional detachment.

Battle’s tranquil life is shaken up by his attempts to win back Rita, Theresa’s pregnancy and simultaneous diagnosis with cancer, Jack’s failure in business, and his own recollections of the death of his wife when he was in his thirties. The reader suddenly learns that Battle met his wife,...

(The entire section is 539 words.)