‘Flights’ by Alice Adams

Flights by Alice Adams, 1976

The magic trick:

A protagonist with empathy abilities that are so strong they’re almost eerie

Alice Adams was untouchable in the 1970s – at least as far as the O. Henry Award committee was concerned. She put a story on that esteemed list in 1971, ’72, ’73, ’74, ’76, ’77, ’78, and ’79. “Flights” is the honoree from 1977. And it’s not surprising, having read the story. It’s very good.

Jacob has inherited a small hotel in Hawaii. But rather than embrace the opportunity, he’s a prisoner of sorts there; skinny, pale, bookish, and scared of life.

He’s a memorable character, to be sure. For all of those aforementioned qualities, yes, but also because he’s an empath. He is so well-attuned to one of the hotel guests – Valerie – that he can imagine nearly everything about her before she even says it.

It’s empathy to the point of almost being eerie.

And that’s quite a trick on Adams’s part.

The selection:

Valerie had (probably) been married several times. Perhaps a husband had been with her when she smashed up the car? A now dead husband?

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