Aimala02, January 20, 2010
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.