Friday, May 23, 2008

America America by Ethan Canin (a pre-publication review)

4 out of 5: Corey Sifter, the son of working-class parents, is hired by the powerful Metarey family as an errand boy on the Metarey’s grand estate. Over time, Corey grows closer to the family and their lifestyle and becomes involved in the political intrigue surrounding the presidential bid of a Senator, for whom Mr. Metarey acts as a kind of campaign manager. As a young man on the fringes of the Senator’s campaign, Sifter recognizes he’s only privy to snatches of the action, and he realizes he’s too young to understand much of what he does witness. In this way, America America explores big themes--class, politics, corruption, trust, loyalty, and family—in a somewhat oblique way. Canin is obviously going for a grand effect, and America America is successful as a kind of political epic along the lines of Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men. My only complaint is that the last quarter of the book is overly ponderous and loses the momentum that Canin carefully maintains during the first part of the book. (This review is based on a pre-publication edition.)

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