What’s it all about?:
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.
What did I think?:
First of all, happy publication day to Omar El Akkad and a huge thank you to the lovely people at Pan Macmillan publishers who were kind enough to send me a copy of this stunning and powerful novel in exchange for an honest review. American War is set in the future yet feels ever so timely, especially with the things happening in the world at the moment and I was completely bowled over by how wonderful both the writing and the plot of the novel is. It’s a gritty, no holds barred account of everything that may occur when a country is at war and at times, it was quite an emotional reading experience.
Our narrator for the story is Benjamin Chestnut who is telling the story of his aunt, Sarat Chestnut and her life after war broke out between the South and North factions of America in 2074, initially over the usage of oil which becomes an illegal commodity. Sarat, her mother, twin sister Dana and older brother Simon are forced to leave their home and become refugees at Camp Patience with hundreds of others. From there, Sarat comes of age, survives a horrific incident that decimates part of her family and comes into contact with a gentleman that becomes quite excited about her potential to exact revenge on the perpetrators that ruined her life. This is the story of how war affects one particular family, how a series of traumatic events can change a person for good and how violence and mistrust can have such devastating consequences for an entire population.
This story is almost epic in its outlook. It looks at the characters from a family over a number of decades who have all been subjected to unbelievable suffering. The prospects of this actually happening are not entirely within the realm of fairy tales – I think this is what makes it all the more frightening and poignant to read. Climate change has obliterated many parts of the country, leaving them underwater and America a shadow of her previous mighty self. With the recent floods from Hurricane Harvey still affecting so many lives it is a terrifying thought that the events of this novel may not be as inconceivable as perhaps once thought. The author also provides us with a fascinating character in his main protagonist, Sarat who is ultimately flawed and commits some heinous acts but still managed to elicit my sympathy due to the hardships and the suffering that she had to face. I’m crossing all my fingers for this novel to do really well, personally I think it’s a phenomenal piece of writing and such an important read and I can’t wait for more people to experience it so I can gush about it even more.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):