A novel told through the shifting voices of a family gathering for Christmas in upstate New York after the death of their beloved matriarch. At odds over the settling of her estate, the group is forced to come together unexpectedly when a local mother and daughter need help.
Quickly, deftly, Strong lays out the financial, emotional and sexual complexities of the three marriages and draws each of the family members for us. The children are as clearly differentiated as the adults, which is not an easy thing to do ...Part of the sense of life in the book comes from Strong’s distinctive prose style — compressed, telegraphic and gestural, one in which the sharp noticing of what might otherwise seem like ordinary details about a character or an exchange takes on a resonating depth ... Early on, Strong has introduced us to what will become the central issue among these characters ... This issue is resolved fairly easily, though, without high drama, giving the novel, rich as it is, a kind of loose, indeterminate quality ... But Strong has been working against this from the start by stepping away occasionally from the house to take up a very different kind of family living nearby — a druggy, at-risk mother and her young daughter, work clients of Alice’s. Their pointedly out-of-place presence at the edges of these otherwise more familiar domestic scenes seems portentous, and indeed, triggers a series of highly dramatic events that Strong uses to resolve everything ... Though it was hard for me to see exactly how, in part because the events this other family introduces to the novel seem disconnected from the quieter and more convincing dramas that have come before.
Strong’s slender but affecting new novel, Flight, ventures into this familiar terrain with a deft touch and an intuitive grasp of her characters. There’s an easy rhythm here: She’s in no rush as she roves among her cast ... The author recounts each character’s connection to Helen, their rivalries for her attention, folding planes of backstory into beautiful origami ... Strong is an exacting observer of families and their idiosyncrasies ... She nails the ennui of middle age ... There’s a slightness to the plot — Flight occasionally feels padded out, with gratuitous, tacked-on scenes — but Strong milks the high moments, such as a quarrel that erupts during a game of cards ... Strong keeps Flight in motion with twists of language and revelation ... Strong delicately teases out her characters’ emotional stasis, the end of one major phase and the inchoate beginnings of another ... Flight slips free of its tight narrative frame: More than just a domestic tale, it is a larger portrait of hearts and minds at war with the tedium of everydayness and the rote routines of relationships.