America America by Ethan Canin
Published by: Random House
Published on: May 2009
Page Count: 496
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Reading Format: Hardcover given to me as a gift by one of my closest friends, Kristin (can’t wait to see you next month!)
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook
Corey Sifter grew up in a working class family in New York state. There was nothing special about his earlier life other than that he had the good fortune to grow up in town founded by the Metarey family. The city was now virtually run by Metarey’s son, Liam. Liam is a kind-hearted and generous man. One day in the early 1970s, while Corey was helping his father extricate some clogged piping from twisted tree roots, Liam took notice of the young man and ultimately offered him a summer job on the grounds of his estate. There, he gets to know the Metarey family, especially his daughters Christian and Clara. Corey and Christian hit it off as friends nearly immediately. Clara seemed to have almost the opposite reaction to him. Throughout that summer, Liam grows more confident in Corey’s abilities and eventually asks him to help out with Senator Bonwiller’s campaign to be the Democratic candidate for president against Richard M. Nixon. The impact of Matarey’s mentor-ship and Corey’s role in the Bonwiller campaign matures him and, although he doesn’t fully understand all that was involved, sets the direction of his life.
I’m not one to enjoy novels about modern day politics. I get tired of all the news of the day and the calls to participate in surveys that I really don’t care to deal with it on my own time. A good friend of mine gave it to me as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. It’s for the best that I didn’t investigate this book more before reading it. I might not have. There was much more to it than evil Republicans and Communist Democrats. Still, when I finished it, my overall opinion was lukewarm. After discussing it with Michelle from My Books. My Life., however, I began to see it in a new way. It’s caused me to think a great deal about the roll of the politician as messenger and ambassador. Mostly, it brings to light the importance of telling the next generation our stories. Just as we learn through our own personal experiences, humanity as a whole can learn from those who have gone before them.
I spent a good deal of time comparing Senator Bonwiller with some of Ted Kennedy’s less heroic moments. Had there not been more to this story, I might have been tempted to put it down. In the end, it was the characters who stood out for me that made all of the difference. Trieste and Mr. McGower were great characters, as minor as they may have been. Trieste is a reminder of what is so wonderful about being young, with your entire life ahead of you. Mr. McGower are reminders of what is wonderful about your average, hard working American. It was nice to get a taste of the innocent and the honorable amidst the powerful and corrupt.
I’ll probably never be this novel’s champion because of the subject matter. I would suggest it for those who enjoy reading about politics and for those in book clubs. If your group is in the mood for something a bit more serious, I don’t think you can go wrong. Conversation about the story made all of the difference for me. [If you missed Michelle's post about our discussion yesterday, check it out.]