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This dystopian novel set in the United States 55 years from now is so convincing it haunts me days after finishing it. There is nothing extraneous; every scene and piece of dialog contributes. What emerges is a powerful and sympathetic narrative of a life-loving curious child as she endures loss and hopelessness growing up in a refugee camp . The reader is left pondering the attractions of loyalty, revenge and destruction versus healing and new life.
Fun post-apocalyptic novel that imagines the US after a future civil war. Seemed like a timely read during the COVID-19 era of social distancing and work from home.
In a speculative future of the United States, six-year-old Sarat lives with her mother and siblings in an old shipping container in an area of Louisiana slowly being overtaken by rising sea levels. As battles in eastern Texas grow nearer their home, they evacuate to a refugee camp in Mississippi, in what is now, after the second Civil War, the Free Southern State. At Camp Patience Sarat learns the skills of survival in that place of squalor, and her loyalties grow more strongly toward the Free Southern State and the promise of vengeance.
Wow, what a time for this book to percolate to the top of my to-read list! Disease and isolation play a pretty significant role, so it was at times a rather eerie experience. That, combined with the question of loyalty and of who are the good/bad guys might make this an intriguing choice for a book discussion group. Recommended (especially in 2020!).
The author clearly has an in-depth knowledge to how multiple parties behave in times of conflict, and that's where the book shines. I'm not surprised as the author is a journalist with a history reporting on conflict.
I found his writing style to be patchy and his use of symbolism a little heavy-handed. Also, I thought the framing device seemed a little odd as it opens as a first person narrative for a few pages and then switches to third person for the vast majority of the book. I think it would have been stronger if they'd left it all in the third person as the first person components don't seem to gel with the rest of the book.
That being said, it's a quick, easy, engaging read and as I mentioned earlier, the attention to detail when describing the origins and implications of conflict was strong.
American War is well written, if in need of better editing. I don't think the story needed to be as long as it was. In the end this book is a depiction of how violence begets more violence, and how one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Interesting read given the times we are living in, where climate could be the catalyst for civil war; and careless politicians could be the catalyst for destruction.
I thought this was an important and, on the whole, plausible vision of the future. Climate change of an extreme nature not fair down the pike, and Trump is telling Texans that the Dems would cut off their oil. Demagoguery with climate could create a world like this one, where one side of the nation fights the other. I thought it showed that the author had read southern literature and knew what alliances and vengeance looked like in real world settings. My mother's family was from the border areas in the Civil War (in Tennessee), and some of her description of the attitudes she had seen over the years on her trips back there may we find too plausible that our country's future may be negative again. Portland reader
American War is absolutely outstanding. I loved the writing, and often gasped audibly at the artistry of a particular description. I was fortunate enough to listen to the audio book and the narration by Dion Graham is outstanding. His reading added such gravitas to Omar El Akkad's debut.
I so admire Sarat's complexity. Akkad does not take the easy way out and position her in some kind of tomboyish box. Instead, we see her naiveté, her bravery, her flawed choices, and her raw and brutal pain.
I loved the inclusion of historical commentary pieces. I found the play with time – historical documents about a future society – allowed Akkad to offer sociopolitical commentary on the civil war of the past we know while proving the adage that history repeats itself. So many moments in this narrative could have been lifted directly from newspaper articles from the civil war and indeed from our current arena: including the types of torture used by American guards.
I recognize the limiting attitudes in this book far too well. I also appreciated Akkad's resistance to make the future some kind of technologically advanced society with flying cars or other clichés. The constant reminders of the eco devastation of climate change were powerful and necessary (eg. vegetables that won't grow, a Category 6 hurricane being dismissed as not really a big deal).
I cried throughout the final section as the loose ends were tied and all the pieces fit together. Akkad has achieved an awe-inspiring work of emotion, poetry, brutality, and depth.
Listing here so as not to lose/forget . . . 2nd civil war . . . climate change impact
The world El Akkad built in American War is the novel's most interesting component. I agree with some other reviewers, the dialogue is occasionally cringey and overreaches to the implausible, but give it a read if you're a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre. It's certainly a fascinating lens through which to observe our current time. Also a very fast read.
I wanted to like this, since it was the Hillsboro Reads selection for 2018, but I couldn't get through it. I didn't like the characters, there was too much character development (I kept thinking "get on with it"), and it was just slow.
Too slow. Kept wishing something was going to happen to grab me. After 250 pages, gave up.
An exploration of characters in the midst of a civil war. Interesting.
Hillsboro Reads 2018 title selection! It was, I'll be honest, a tough read for me; but the author's beautiful narrative and writing, ability to tell a story that will show you empathy in unexpected ways, and imagination to weave this fictitious-though-very-realistic tale together are commendable. I read this book out loud with my husband on a road trip and he was literally on the edge of his seat! Recommended for book groups -- you'll want to talk about it.
I really tried to get through this. I made it though about 100 pages and had to put it down because I kept falling asleep every time I tried to read it.
Sadly, I was unable to get through the book - I read about 100 pages, and had to quit, as I kept falling asleep every time I read it.
An interesting and fascinating read of a future America embroiled in civil war, brought on by environmental catastrophe. Interesting as it echoes anxieties of the early 21st Century.
I don't think I would have made it through this book if I didn't listen to the audiobook. It is a drama, very little if any edge of your seat action or suspense that you are led to expect in a war/plague type book. Just a story about a girl growing up and becoming bitter.
Very unfocused book. The backstory appears to have been made up as the writer went along. This should have been a better book. I can't understand how the writer can say Mexico reclaimed land when they are consumed by Cartel money, I don't see this happening in the time frame stated in the book.
Devastating and powerful story. Really hard book to put down. It's also one of the most plausible futuristic scenarios I've encountered in fiction.
Wow, can this guy write! He packs so much into a single sentence without the sentence becoming a wearing load of trivia. And he found a way to have the main character remain true to herself through the end. I was hypnotized and read the book in a day. It's no happy-sappy story though, so I'll need to take a long break before reading another of his. Believable storyline.
Definitely worth reading. I found the plot a bit thin for my liking. The author's writing style is outstanding making the reading itself very pleasant.
In American War, journalist Omar El Akkad paints a dark dystopian future in which the unreconciled shadows of America’s past rise up to tear the country apart once more. His protagonist begins as a child caught in the middle of that fight, and is irrevocably twisted and shaped by the horrors of war. We follow Sarat as she goes from refugee to fighter to war hero to wanted terrorist, perceptions of her swaying and turning depending from which side of the conflict she is being seen. We see her broken and remade, and broken again, and must inevitably follow her to the consequences of that final breaking. She is not a likeable character, and the reader is not necessarily supposed to sympathize with her actions, but it the author’s quest to make us understand her nevertheless.
Full review: https://shayshortt.com/2018/03/29/american-war/
I thought it was a well written book but disturbing.The main character was deeply traumatized and takes her revenge. I was hoping for some signs of hope or restoration but left feeling hopeless. Is this the book Canada needs to read? Many of the others, I have read all 5, build bridges, this one is destructive.
In an attempt to read the Canada Reads 2018 shortlist before the debates air at the end of March (good luck with that, right?), I picked up American War, the contender that had most piqued my interest. I think American War is an important but difficult book for one main reason: it is utterly, terrifyingly believable. Given the state of...everything in 2018, the narrative written by first time novelist Omar El Akkad feels like a "when, not if" scenario for our neighbours to the south. Like many CR heavy-hitters before it, I think the more sensitive readers among us may pass over American War, but if you can stomach it, I urge you to pick up this book.
This was one of my favorite books of the year. Very gripping characters and thought-provoking narrative of human nature and sociological dynamics in a dystopian novel in a future America impacted by climate change