The best books haunt our dreams. We read, we sleep, we dream . . . and, if we're lucky, we dream about what we read. Flying is that rare book that erases the line between dreams and reality. Few writers are able to evoke that magical, floating feeling of a dream within a traditional narrative.
But "traditional" isn't an appropriate word to use in describing Eric Kraft's new book — or, rather, books. Flying comprises two previously published novels, Taking Off and On the Wing, and the conclusion of this trilogy, Flying Home.
Each book stands alone as chapters in the life of a young dreamer-inventor-adventurer named Peter Leroy, from the idyllic lost-in-time village of Babbington on Long Island.
As a youth, Peter Leroy built something called an aerocycle and flew from his bucolic hometown to New Mexico. Or did he? We're never quite sure, but we are nonetheless entertained by young Peter's tales.
At one stop, he sees a village with a colorful banner stretched across the main street and presumes it's a big welcome for him, the Bird Boy of Babbington. Turns out he has stumbled across Mallowdale and its annual celebration of the marshmallow. Soon, he runs afoul of the marshmallow boosters and spends a night in the pokey. It's this sort of mirth and weirdness that make Flying so endearing.
The narrative shifts between Peter the adventurous youth and Peter the older and unrepentant dreamer, looking back on his life. He shares much of the story with his wife, Albertine, his loving companion and partner. It's the moments with Peter and Albertine that give this fanciful story its emotional grandeur. Among many other things, Flying is the story of a great love and two dreamers bound by their shared imagination and wonder.
It's also that rare book that can change the way you look at the world. Peter looks at life as if he's seeing it for the first time. If you'll only buy into this, you can find the same joy Peter Leroy finds.
William McKeen teaches journalism at the University of Florida.