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American Rustby Philipp Meyer
Synopses & Reviews
Set in a beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, a lush landscape as deceptively promising as the edifices of the abandoned steel mills that once provided the livelihood of generations, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation that arises from its loss. From local bars to train yards to prison, it is the story of two young men bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia, and the beauty around them, who dream of a future beyond the factories, abandoned homes, and polluted river.
Evoking John Steinbeck's novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust takes us into the contemporary American heartland at a moment of profound unrest and uncertainty about the future. It is a dark but lucid vision, a moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence, and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.
"In his unrelentingly downbeat debut, Meyer offers up a character-driven near-noir set in Buell, a dying Pennsylvania steel town, where aimless friends Billy Poe and Isaac English are trapped by economic and personal circumstance. Just before their halfhearted escape to California, Isaac accidentally kills a transient who tries to rob Poe. The boys return to the crime scene the next day with plans to cover up the crime, setting the plot in motion. Poe is soon under suspicion, and Isaac, distraught after discovering Poe has been carrying on a relationship with Isaac's sister, Lee, sets off for California alone. Meanwhile, Poe's mother, Grace, mourns her own lost opportunities, broods over her son and pines for her on-again-off-again love, the local sheriff. A fully realized tragic heroine, Grace is the poignant thrust of the novel, embodying enough rural tragedy to nearly atone for the novel's weakness: a sense that some of the plot mechanics are arbitrary. Still, Meyer has a thrilling eye for failed dreams and writes uncommonly tense scenes of violence, and in the character of Grace creates a woeful heroine. Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Philipp Meyer's American Rust is written with considerable dramatic intensity and pace. It manages an emotional accuracy, a deep and detailed conviction, in its depiction of character. It also captures a sense of a menacing society, a wider world in the throes of decay and self-destruction." Colm Tóibín, author of The Master and The Blackwater Lightship
"[A] grimly powerful hybrid: provocative literary fiction crossed with a propulsive thriller." Kirkus Reviews
"A Pandora's box of debate for book clubs....[S]trongly recommended." Library Journal
"A novel as splendidly crafted and original as any written in recent decades, American Rust is both darkly disturbing and richly compelling. Philipp Meyer's first novel signals the arrival of a new voice in American letters." Patricia Cornwell, author of Scarpetta
"With its strong narrative engine and understated social insight, American Rust is reminiscent of the best of Robert Stone and Russell Banks. Author Philipp Meyer locates the heart of his working class characters without false sentiment or condescension, and their world is artfully described. An extraordinary, compelling novel from a major talent." George Pelecanos, author of The Turnaround
"This is strong, clean stuff. Philipp Meyer deserves to be taken seriously." Pete Dexter, author of Paper Trails
"American Rust announces the arrival of a gifted new writer — a writer who understands how place and personality and circumstance can converge to create the perfect storm of tragedy." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"In contemporary fiction Meyer...most resembles Andre Dubus, Dennis Lehane or Richard Price. Bleak and nasty." Dallas Morning News
"[F]ull of a sorrowful hope that is graced by a profound respect for struggle and the unrelenting courage necessary to carry on." Kansas City Star
About the Author
Philipp Meyer grew up in Baltimore, dropped out of high school, and got his GED when he was sixteen. After spending several years volunteering at a trauma center in downtown Baltimore, he attended Cornell, where he studied English. Since graduating, Meyer has worked as a derivatives trader at UBS, a construction worker, and an EMT, among other jobs. His writing has been published in McSweeney's, The Iowa Review, Salon.com, and New Stories from the South. From 2005 to 2008 Meyer was a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas.
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