Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sad and Satisfying: A Life Revealed In A Story Well Told


 Off the Shelf:   By Suzanne Donahue | Tuesday, June 24, 2014 

 It is vacation season, when we all pile in to cars, trains, and airplanes hoping to escape for a week or two the reality of who we are and where we live. We pack with such high expectations: that we will not hit any traffic on the road, and that at the airport we will check in with no hidden fees or angst and glide effortlessly to our gate, where we will board our plane and arrive early and refreshed. My trips to airports are never effortless but I have rarely had a trip that demanded a multipage letter to the airline responsible for a horrendous journey. But then I have never been trapped in the no exit hell of O’Hare instead of on my way to California to attend the wedding of the daughter I last saw when she was an infant and her mother left me. 

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles starts out wickedly funny as our frustrated flier, Benjamin Ford, composes his letter to American Airlines explaining his situation and demanding 1) to be gotten to California immediately, and 2) a full refund of his $392.68 fare. But as the day wears into night the letter evolves from a tirade into a life story and we find out who Ben Ford is and how he has come to be stranded. Ben is an ex-poet who now translates Polish literature for a living, and if that doesn’t tell you almost everything you need to know about him you also find out he is the only child of a steady, kind Polish War survivor who just wanted to live an easy life but instead married a certifiable Southern Belle, a cross between Blanche Dubois and the matriarch from Prince of Tides, who spent a fair share of Ben’s childhood in the mental ward of the local hospital. He is also, and I give nothing away here, someone who drinks, which he does quite a bit throughout his story. - See more at:

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