America, America by Ethan Canin - Book Review

One of the best things about reading advanced copies is discovering great books you would usually overlook. Another is finding stories that are so well written you fall in love with a subject you’d normally shun.

America, America is a story about politics, power and the news media. It’s an astute observation on the intricacies of media and politicians as bedfellows. It’s also a comparison between the working class that built a nation and high society, a look at the changes wrought by the American desire to expand and an allegory for the famous Kennedy/Chappaquiddick tragedy. Not something I’d normally add to my TBR pile.

The author, Ethan Canin, is a professor of writing at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In America, America his gifts are on full display. His greatest asset lies in conveying the emotional aspect of politics. We feel sorry for the bad guys. In fact, we aren’t really sure who the bad guys are.

But, America, America is really a coming-of-age tale, told in reflective time slips by a now grown newsman whose own daughters are the same age he was when the story begins. Because the tone is reflective, it takes some time for the reader to invest in the characters, but our motivation lies in knowing that the narrator knows something that no one else knows and he has some degree of regret for it. The time slips are well done and the tension building is constant. Canin chips away our suspicions step by ‘ah-ha’ step.

My only qualms were with one flat character (the Senator’s mistress) and some editing issues (which are a personal bug-a-boo) where a few non-essential elements were allowed to bog the ending. These are minor glitches in an excellent look at the men who seek power, the ones who watch on the sidelines, the ones who get caught in the excitement and the working men who make it all possible.

Recommended for historical fiction aficionados, readers who like to consider the intricacies of human nature and those in appreciation of well-written, reflective coming-of-age tales.

Read from an advanced copy. Available June 24, 2008

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gautami tripathy said...

It is a pity that such books are rarely available in India! I truly wish to read it.

Tasses said...

Maybe you can pick up a copy of half.com ? I don't know if they ship international ....


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