A Review of America America

America AmericaLast week I finished Ethan Canin’s America America and I was pleasantly surprised. It isn’t my favorite book from the list, but I liked it.

One of the biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses of the novel is the main character  and narrator Corey Sifter. He is the son of a plumber and very much working class when he is offered a job on the Materey estate, the home of the richest and most powerful family in town. Corey recalls the events of Henry Bonwiller’s presidential campaign looking back from his own middle age and from his position as publisher of a local newspaper.

I expected Corey to be corrupted by the wealth he finds himself surrounded by. However, he manages to stay apart from it all to a degree. He is quiet, hardworking, and a good observer. I found him likeable to a point. The problem is that he is too quiet, hardworking, and observant. I wished for a little more feeling from him, more emotion, more passion.

In addition, the story is flawed because it is told from Corey’s perspective and decades later he still doesn’t have a definitive answer to some of the book’s big questions. Yet that also works to make it interesting. Not everything is spelled out and while I could have used a little more explanation, I liked that there were hints and clues but no firm conclusions. Sometimes there are things we’ll just never know for sure.

America America was by no means a fast read. It took it’s time painting the picture and mulling over the issues. It could have been said faster and tighter, but I suppose the journey was part of the experience.

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