Brooks has a light, humorous touch with characters of all ages; his storytelling is taut and suspenseful, and he deftly balances Houston, Annelise, and Yak’s soaring achievements with pursuit by a gang of murdering thieves ... I highly recommend Cloudmaker.
A sweeping yet personal coming-of-age story. Following Painted Horses, Malcolm Brooks again offers engaging, resolute characters and evocative descriptions of the country and the era ... Worldly Annalise and whip-smart but sheltered Huck share respect, affection, a goal of getting in the air and a commitment to following Amelia Earhart's progress.
This book is like a road trip vacation. There’s an ultimate destination, but instead of zooming along the highway and getting there in a day, the story takes the scenic route in a leisurely voyage of discovery along backroads and byways. Thus, if you’re in a hurry to get from point A to point B, this is the wrong novel for you. It starts out briskly enough, with the lead character test-flying a homebuilt glider in the middle of the night. But after that crash landing, things slow down and start drifting away from the aviation story promised by the cover and jacket ...That’s probably because it’s a literary style of novel: long and lush, conveyed in masterful prose that captures time, place, and conflicting cultures. Character motivation and backstory are deeply explored. It concentrates on the layers and complexities of people and life, with all their surprises and pain, inching toward goals by way of sidetracks and backslides, with the characters learning hard but profound lessons in the process ... By the time you arrive, you’ve gone through a coming-of-age novel rich in Americana. Whether you’re enthralled or exhausted by the journey will, of course, depend on your taste in fiction.
With a nod to Ivan Doig’s straightforward folksy style, this impressive second novel after Painted Horses tells an earnest, heartfelt family story with laugh-out-loud humor, deep-seated family conflicts, and distressing coming-of-age crises. Enthusiastically recommended.
The 450-page novel is narrated from the point of view of several characters, which adds perspective to the story while also making the plot lines harder to follow. Still, the protagonists are vividly portrayed ... What’s less clear is where the reader’s focus should be. Is the story about the relationship between Huck and his family, or the significance of man’s desire to conquer the skies? And what about the gangsters, whose shenanigans take up much of the middle part of the novel? Or Huck’s love interest, who disappears more than halfway through the book? Or Annelise’s conquests? ... Whether it’s enough to propel the reader through the preceding pages depends on one’s patience and belief.
Brooks evokes rural Montana’s magnificent beauty ... Danger and mystery enhance the plot when gangsters seek to reclaim an expensive watch Huck had pulled off a dead man found in a local creek. The cast and their interactions are wonderful, and tangents on their personal stories deepen the characterizations and historical backdrop. Brooks has created an entrancing tale about the challenges of pursuing one’s dreams and life on American frontiers, old and new.
Brooks' singular style, evoking the ornate vernacular of a cowboy poet, does not quite distract from the fact that we’re going deep—too deep—into the mechanics of any practical challenge that might arise, such as retrieving a gangster’s body from a trout stream with an ingenious pulley system ... Brooks won’t let any of his characters be marginalized, or stereotyped, for long. The backstories of Roy, McKee, and Gloria are a vivid, anecdotal compendium of Western disgrace and glory. Although the flight scenes are majestic, they’re often truncated by excessively detailed preflight tinkering. Amid all the eloquence, history, scenery, and how-to, forward momentum stalls. An occasionally profound novel that takes risks with language and readers’ patience.
Part coming-of-age story, part adventure, and part gangster melodrama, the elements don’t totally come together, but the nostalgic atmosphere and exciting flying scenes transport the reader to an early, adventurous time in aviation history. When airborne, Brooks really shines.