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American War’s Back-of-Book Description:
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place.
But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.
American War was the first book I received from the monthly subscription service Book of the Month (if you haven’t yet, be sure to read my review of Book of the Month here!).
My first selection with Book of the Month was tough – there were two others that looked pretty good – but I chose this one because I thought the premise sounded really intriguing and to be honest, not that far fetched.
I mean, I tend to like historical fiction and in my opinion, some ‘not so distant future’ stories seem to generate the same kind of interest, too. (I think because both of them take place at a time other than right now, making it easier to let your imagination run with it.)
I also thought the premise of American War was intriguing, given the incredible divisive nature of American politics and world views right now.
Anyways, I’m glad I chose it! The author was really talented in the way he laid out this ‘future America’ – the borders and coastlines having been changed due to climate change and rising sea levels. It was fairly easy to picture and he even included an “updated” map to further assist the reader.
As far as characters go, most of them were pretty interesting – the ones he gives enough detail and backstory to anyway. For example, you learn a lot about the mother and why she is the way she is. You also see one of her children, the main character, really change over the period of time that the story unfolds.
But other characters only get brief mentions here and there and he doesn’t dive very deep into their personalities. I would have liked a little bit more information and character building for the sister, for sure.
Now… it is a war story, so there are a few instances of graphic, slightly gory consequences of said war. So be prepared for that. There aren’t that many, though, and it wasn’t enough to turn me off to the story as a whole.
Probably the most interesting thing about American War was the fact that it really sheds a light on the effects of war and relationships on children. The main character could very well have become a different person with different motivations, but she was in the middle of a war!
She was experiencing death, destruction and displacement wich is probably going to cause bitterness in anyone who experiences it, maybe especially children. On top of that, she forms a relationship with an adult who effectively pushes her to explore those dark feelings and thus further develops them.
Overall, I liked the way he told the story, and the writing was good. I’m told this is his debut novel – he comes from a long journalism background – and I think he did a fantastic job with his first go at fiction. Plus, I didn’t have a hard time at all finding good quotes I liked!
Buy it now!
Favorite Quotes From the Book
“… the purpose of a lie eluded her. She couldn’t yet fathom that someone would say something if they didn’t believe it.”
“His son looked on, cataloguing his father’s every minute ritual into an ironclad manual of what it means to be a man.”
“She wondered if all boys were like this, their meanness a self-defense.”
“… a slower kind of death – death at the hands of poverty and boredom and decay.”
“… the misery of war represented the world’s only truly universal language.”
“If it had been you, you’d have done no different.”
I’d give American War 3.5 out of 5 stars. I liked it, I really did. And I’d give it more stars if only it had a little more of that ‘don’t put me down’ or ‘pick me back up’ power. Perhaps if it didn’t take place over such a long period of time (20 years!), or if it was slightly more condensed.
Either way – I would definitely still recommend it! I think it’s great for people who like historical fiction (in that it might be a fun, new twist for them) and people who are especially interested in politics and/or climate change.
*This post was proofread by Grammarly
Thanks so much for reading! If you think you know someone who would enjoy the book please share this review!
And consider pinning one of the great quotes below.