Aimala02, January 20, 2010 (view all comments by Aimala02)
One day 16-year old Corey Sifter is living a quiet, sheltered life with his mother and father in the town of Saline, New York. The next day he is offered a job as a groundskeeper on the estate of Liam Metarey, the wealthiest man in the County. Suddenly, Corey is surrounded by wealth, power and prestige, a life completely different from the one he's known. When Mr. Metarey decides to manage the campaign of Senator Bonwiller in his run for the presidency, Corey sees a side of American life he knows nothing about, politics.
The author does a wonderful job painting the details of the pain and difficulties, joys and sorrows that make up Corey's journey from the 16 year old working class boy to the successful journalist and publisher, father and husband he becomes. He does this while pulling off the difficult trick of taking fictional characters and placing them among real people and events in America's history. He weaves history and fiction seamlessly together: Senator Bonwiller vies for the nomination of the Democratic party against Muskie and Humphrey. President Richard Nixon is in office. The Vietnam War rages and affects the people of Corey's town, making this era of our collective history a very real part of the story, not just background.
Ethan Canin has written a rich, complex story about power, loyalty, love, corruption and relationships. The style of “America America” is somewhat reminiscent of Richard Russo, (one of my favorite authors) in that it is set in a small town during a pivotal time in America and spans generations. America is changing on scales both small and large. Changes that profoundly affect the main characters. It is a beautifully written, compelling story that is difficult to put down but the reader would do well to read it slowly, savoring its depths and nuances.
ryanpjj, November 25, 2009 (view all comments by ryanpjj)
I had never heard of Ethan Canin before finding this book in my local library. I picked it up when I read the review on the back of the book by Robert Russo when he said something like "read this book and weep, not only for what we have lost, but for how we lost it". Elegaic!
This is an amazing piece of work - epic and homely simultaneously. It is a wonderfully homespun tale, paradoxically replete with internationally known characters and deprecatingly observed historical context, reminiscent in style of Scott-Fitzgerald at his laconic, Gatsby-esq best and yet plotted like a Ludlum blockbuster, a character or historical twist every few pages. Yes, there is that keen sense of loss for both a personal childhood/society and a national era, but there is an uplifting thread of the narrator's humanity and acceptance of necessary change that links that lost past with the present's compromises and avoids any danger of maudlin retrospective. This novel is nothing less than the prose homage to Whitman's Leaves of Grass. Read it while listening to LZ's Kashmir and be uplifted!
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Random House -
by Jill Owens,
America America is a sweeping, epic story that more fully explores themes Canin has written about previously class, politics, fatherhood, wealth, and power in a seamless and beautiful multigenerational American saga. Both an important work and a page-turning summer read, especially in this election year, it is a powerful reminder about what is great, and what is broken, within our country.
by Jill Owens
"Review A Day"
by Heller McAlpin, Los Angeles Times,
"It's refreshing — and almost quaint — to see someone try to write a Great American Novel in the 21st century. These days, writers are more apt to pursue the Great American Screenplay or the Not-So-Great American Ironic, Postmodern Fiction. But Ethan Canin's sixth book, with its flag-waving title, America America, is a big, ambitious, old-fashioned, quintessentially American novel about politics, power, ambition, class, ethics and loyalty." (read the entire Los Angeles Times review)
by Kirkus Reviews,
"This novel of character...is powerful and haunting, a major work....It's the journey, not the arrival, that matters, and the journey is an enthralling one."
by Ron Charles, Washington Post,
"Ethan Canin's best novel... Canin, who teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, has written before about the seductive and transformative power of people with extraordinary wealth, but never with such sensitivity.... We've waited a long time for a worthy successor to Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, and it couldn't have arrived at a more auspicious moment than this season of potentially epochal political change."
by Rocky Mountain News,
"[A] summer novel that will have you turning pages faster than Barack Obama is pocketing delegates....America America is a timely, engaging novel about power and influence in the land of opportunity. In Canin's adept hands, the tale makes for a lively summer read against a backdrop of true political meanderings that, we can only hope, never escalates to the tragedy and intensity of Canin's Saline, N.Y."
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