Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: A Great American Novel

I read America America by Ethan Canin some time ago and neglected to write a review.

Cory Sifter has the good fortune to have a hard-working blue-collar father who has shown his mettle to the rich Metarey family who owns the town nearby. Luckily his worth and value do not go unnoticed by the patriarch of the family who assumes Mr. Sifter's son will have many of the same qualities and sees first-hand that he is a smart hard-working boy. Set in New York, the small-town newspaper man looks back on his story and the story of those who helped him become the man he is.

When I think of this book, I am mindful of authors all of the country striving to write "The Great American Novel." The idea of a poor boy going to a prep school, making all the right contacts and making his way in the world through wits, hard work, reliability and loyalty (all-American, in a Statue of LIberty, apple pie kind of way) while highlighting the entitlement of the rich and the corruption of politics? I think Ethan Canin has moved a step closer to the ideal than any book I've read in a long time. I do see tinges of Richard Russo and John Knowles, but Canin owns this story and I'll be happy to read anything he writes going forward..

The character development is excellent, the story is solid, and the characters have stuck with me. It goes in the pile of books that I know will be reread. Like John Irving novels, I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who appreciates a well-told story.

One caveat is that I do think there are points where the story is a little slow but despite that, I never lost interest.

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