Tuesday, June 03, 2008

America America by Ethan Canin

This was another Advanced Reader Copy from the Early Reviewers Group on LibraryThing. In America America, a young man, Corey Sifter is swept up into the lives of a small town’s most wealthy and powerful family. Corey comes from a working class home and accepts a job on the Metarey Family’s estate in the late 1960’s. Before he knows it, the family patriarch takes him under his wing offering him advice about succeeding in life and the chance to further himself by attending a prestigious private boarding school. The story is told through alternating chapters in at least three different time periods (all at once!); Corey in high school, Corey in college, and Corey as a middle-age adult. The tale is told mostly through Corey’s eyes, but every now and then strays to one of the lesser characters’ point of view.

The book centers on a political campaign (of Senator Bonwiller) run during Nixon’s second presidential campaign and focuses on the Metarey family’s and therefore Corey’s involvement with the campaign.

There are many facets to this book. It is modern historical fiction and contains a portrait of the proverbial American Dream. A Scottish man (Eoghan Metarey) coming to America and rising from nothing to become wealthy and powerful through hard work (and perhaps some questionable decisions). And then the legacy he leaves behind for his family. The book centers a great deal on what one generation can learn from the next and how each generation affects another. It also portrays the political world of the late 1960’s, early 70’s before the world of the computer age when newspapers and reporters were an integral part of the campaign. Also, the lengths politicians will go during a campaign (not that any of this has changed much, just the medium through which the information is disseminated has). The American Dream is also shown through Corey’s family where he has the opportunity to learn more and have more of an education than his father did. There is an interesting storyline about the relationship with Corey and his father toward the end of the book.

It’s hard for me to decide if I liked this book or not. I think it is very well written and I think many of the characters are developed well. I like the way Canin creates the relationships in the book between Corey and his father, Corey and Liam Metarey, and Corey and the Metarey daughters. A good section of the book deals with the political campaign and I found some of these parts to be very boring and I wondered if I would actually be able to get to the end of the book. Through much of the book, Corey refers to his spouse as “my wife” and not by name, so we’re not entirely sure which character he has chosen to marry until quite close to the end of the book. There is also an “incident” that is talked about in much of the book that really has too much of a build up. I wasn’t that into the Senator’s character or his affair with a young woman and the ensuing incident.

The timing of the book is good (it comes out June 24th) with this being an election year and with as close as the primaries are, its sort of fun to read a bit about politics. I think overall this book is probably 4 out of 5 if I’m impartial about it. But for my personal tastes, I think it was a bit long and not quite as gripping as I might like (I’m also usually not very engrossed by politics) so it could be a 3.5. If you like the author, Richard Russo, I would recommend this one. It reminded me a great deal of Bridge of Sighs and Empire Falls.

1 comment:

allisonmariecat said...

This one sounds interesting. Not necessarily enjoyable, but interesting :) I thought you did a really nice review that lets me decide I don't want to read this right now, but I'll keep it in mind!