AMERICA AMERICA by Ethan Canin
Kirkus Star

AMERICA AMERICA

BUY NOW FROM
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A dynasty shattered, a presidential campaign in ruins; a newspaper publisher revisits his youth to better understand an old scandal.

This novel of character, Canin’s first since Carry Me Across The Water (2001), is powerful and haunting, a major work. Narrator Corey Sifter is the middle-aged publisher of a regional daily in upstate New York. In 2006 he attends the funeral of the ancient Henry Bonwiller, former U.S. senator, the last of the liberal lions. After this low-key start we move back to 1971. Corey is 16, son of a plumber, a true craftsman. They live in Saline, a company town dominated by the Metareys, one of America’s great capitalist families. The original Metarey, a Scottish immigrant and ruthless coal baron, has been succeeded by his son Liam, a far kinder man, well-liked. Liam sees a disciplined worker in Corey, self-discipline being the bedrock of character, and hires him as a part-time groundskeeper, then pays his way at a prestigious boarding school as Corey begins a tentative relationship with one of Liam’s daughters. Liam is also masterminding the fiercely anti-war Bonwiller’s run for the White House; soon Bonwiller is the Democratic frontrunner, but danger lurks. A young woman has been found in the snow, intoxicated, frozen to death. Bonwiller’s name is linked to hers, though nobody knows the details. Corey, in a minor way, participates in a cover-up. Only years later, after the birth of his first daughter, does he realize he’d been involved with “something unforgivably wrong.” Canin employs with great skill Corey’s double vision: the bedazzled loyalty of the teenager, the chastened worldview of the parent. Bonwiller’s campaign implodes; the consequences for the Metareys are brutal. The novel is not flawless (Liam, the central character, proves elusive) but the detail work is quite wonderful: The rhythms of a great estate, and the dynamics of a landowning family, are captured with Tolstoyan exactitude.

It’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters, and the journey is an enthralling one.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-679-45680-3
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2008




MORE BY ETHAN CANIN

FictionA DOUBTER'S ALMANAC by Ethan Canin
by Ethan Canin
FictionCARRY ME ACROSS THE WATER by Ethan Canin
by Ethan Canin
FictionFOR KINGS AND PLANETS by Ethan Canin
by Ethan Canin