Reviews in 200 Words

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

In Novel on April 3, 2009 at 2:39 am

You are Billy Poe. You’re also Isaac English, Virgil, Grace, Lee and Bud Harris. Buell, Pennsylvania is a dying steel town full of people who either want to escape or spend their time thinking about when they could have escaped, but no longer can. When Billy and Isaac accidentally kill a giant homeless Swedish man, they realize how desperate they are to get out. This weird crime leads to the unpacking of several fragmented relationships. The town is dotted with shut-down machine shops and dilapidated mobile homes. Amid the wreckage, Meyer’s organization is comforting: he switches point-of-view constantly, but it doesn’t get old. This book reads like a thriller, not because the action is non-stop or riveting, but because you care about each character; you care about who survives their conflict. These characters are poor and smart: Poe ends up in prison while English hops trains to California. By the end, you love these guys and you hate the system. You hate a system that puts good, honest boys behind bars and lets towns like Buell slip right off the map.

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