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, he intersperses 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.