This novel by the acclaimed author of Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief spans four decades of American life. Starting in the Nixon era, America America follows Corey Sifter's progress from his modest roots in western New York to a glittering world of money, ambition, and politics.
Corey's entrée into this realm of promise is the patronage of Liam Metarey, son of a ruthless coal baron who amassed a fortune in the early 1900s. Through Corey's narration, we are drawn into the triumphs and trials of the Metarey family as Liam attempts to orchestrate a presidential nomination for Senator Henry Bonwiller. Thrust into the excitement of the campaign, 16-year-old Corey fetches drinks, parks cars, sets up chairs for press events -- and gets an intimate education in human failings.
A champion of labor and civil rights who opposes the Vietnam War, Bonwiller seems to represent the best traditions of America's liberal coalition. But as both Liam and Corey discover, the senator's moral weakness threatens not only his candidacy but their own hopes and ambitions as well. While rumors of Bonwiller's shady business dealings are held in check by the long arm of Metarey influence, the furor set in motion by the accidental death of a young secretary linked to the candidate is not so easily contained.
Tracing the rise and fall of a politician and a family, and the passing of an idealistic era, Canin's novel moves between the present and the past as Corey chronicles his growth to middle age, his marriage to one of Liam's daughters, and his career as publisher of his hometown newspaper. As he mentors a high school intern at the paper, Corey is prompted to question his own role in the sordid affair that put an end to the senator's presidential bid. Layered with Corey's poignant recognition of what it means to be flawed and fallible, Canin's masterfully crafted plotlines converge to bring this complex tale to its startling, inescapable conclusion.
About the Author
For an author who confesses that he finds the process of writing agony -- "I hate it, I really do" -- Ethan Canin has met with extraordinary success. The author of six works of fiction, including the story collections Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief and the novels For Kings and Planets and Carry Me Across the Water, Canin is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished contemporary American writers.
"To me, a novel is the story of a life," Canin has explained. "That's what interests me. The guy who works in the laundromat, the professor, what happened to them? Where did they make their mistakes? Why didn't they take that job? Why didn't they marry someone else? You could spend the rest of your life thinking about that."
Ethan Canin was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received early encouragement for his writing from a teacher at his prep school, the bestselling author Danielle Steel. A graduate of Stanford University, he received a master's in fine arts from the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop before shifting gears to enroll in Harvard Medical School. Canin continued to work as a physician as he wrote and published his first books.
Currently, he serves on the faculty of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and lives with his wife and children in Iowa and California.
From Our Booksellers
In an election year where the media takes front and center, a book like this -- that encompasses all the scandal, conspiracy, and deceptions of generations -- told through the clear and unflinching voice of an old-school seeker of truth, demands to be read. A timely and lucid story of what it means to be political vs. what it means to be true, and the shifting nature of both through the filter of what we loosely call morality. --Steve Russell, Tucson, AZ
Walt Whitman captured the American spirit with his poetry, and Ethan Canin captures it in his novel. This is a story about the American Dream: about men whowork hard and strive to create a better world for their children, about ambition and the failures and successes that accompany it. It is a wonderful story about the people who are the backbone of this country, and how they have watched it change from a land dotted with farms to one dotted with strip malls. This is truly an American tale. --Patricia Sanders, Towson, MD
Sweeping in scope, Canin's novel is an intricate portrait of the coming-of-age of a boy and the nation around him. --Doug Britt, Chicago, IL
Intelligent and gracefully crafted, this novel is a reflection of the past, a correlation of the present, and a prediction of the future of our politics. Relevant and incrediblysatisfying. --J. C. Barb, Fayetteville, GA
Ethan Canin's new novel is a powerful lament that haunts us like a latter-day ghost of The Great Gatsby. Like Gatsby, it deals with an orgiastic rupture in the American dream. If F. Scott Fitzgerald anatomized the Jazz Age and delivered its own corrupt and luscious poetry, Canin gives us a poisoned lullaby of the Nixon era.... The language is often supple, can leap from impressionistic poetry to a coroner's report, and can whiplash through time, from the 1970s to 2006. --Publishers Weekly