Friday, 8 January 2010

American Rust by Philipp Meyer - Four *

I very nearly didn't read this book. Why? Well it starts by setting the physical scene and the reader is bombarded by American trees, birds, plants, cars and geographical terms that are unknown to the British reader. I thought about reading it and googling each one which would have been a very time consuming job or to just let it wash as wallpaper. I opted for the wallpaper route and am pleased I did.

It is written in what I found to be an unusual style in that we kept switching characters with each chapter, sometimes with time overlap, sometimes as a continuation of the timeline. The story is essentially about two young adults and a mistake they commit that has them at odds with the law. As we switch characters we see the ripple effect of their action through friends, relatives and friends of relatives.

Since the death of his mother and his sister leaving home, Isaac has stayed at home to look after his crippled father. Somewhat a genius he has denied himself a university education and has finally decided to leave and get that education. He steals money from his father and runs away deciding to hitch and hop trains to get there. He decides to start the trip with his friend Poe for company. They come across some down and outs who get heavy with them and Isaac murders one of them.

I found another aspect of my reading it unusual. I wouldn't say I didn't care about the outcome, more that I felt the outcome wasn't important, I wanted to see justice served. It was also nice to come across a story where the loose ends weren't tidied up conveniently - a lot like real life. Even now I am not sure if that justice was truly served.

This was a highly compelling read and I STRONGLY recommend this read. Why not 5 stars? Well although I really enjoyed it I have read a few books that moved me more - but not many.


  1. I think its good (most of the time) to keep going with a book even if the beginning puts you off. Glad you liked it - although its not one I'll be trying.

  2. Thanks for linking this review to me. I will definitely give this a try. I like books about justice and which provoke emotion from the reader. I am slightly concerned by the fact that the opening was a bit alien but now I know I shall have to battle through because it's worth it. Great review.