americanwar

Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

American War. What do I even begin to tell you about this book? I finished it weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. I totally understand why it was nominated for two Goodreads Choice Awards (and yes, I voted for it).

American War is one of those wonderful books that both entertains and makes you think. It follows Sara T. Chestnut, known as Sarat, as she navigates the horrors of life during the second American Civil War. As you read (or in my case, listen), you begin to realize that what the author describes isn’t that far-fetched after all. A country where North and South are at odds over resources and politics? Where red and blue become more than just an association – they become an identity? Where people turn on each other, torture each other, and hate each other?

Not so hard to imagine, is it?

Perhaps this is what makes American War so compelling, or perhaps it’s Sarat herself. This fierce, defiant, and eternally loyal little girl who grows up to become one of the most influential and terrible people in the war. And yet, for all her faults, you can’t help but empathize with Sarat. Her experiences as a child make her who she is as an adult – hard, but haunted. There’s a humanity and tenderness in her, that you wish for throughout the whole story, but only glimpse at times. Sarat is one of the most complex characters I’ve read in a long time.

American War isn’t perfect, and the lack of exposition for the war itself is most of what kept me from giving this one 5 stars. I’d rank it behind both Station Eleven and The Road, though the feel is similar. It’s an entirely plausible dystopian novel, both timely and tragic. Well worth the read.

Hardcover: 352 pages    Audio: 12 hours

Published: April 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group    Source: Purchased via Scribd

Buy it on Amazon

American War on Goodreads

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, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

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