Saturday, June 14, 2008

America America

America America: A Novel
By Ethan Canin
2008 Random House Inc.
Hardcover and unabridged audiobook, HC 9780679456803, $27

The time is the 70s. The place: upstate New York. Corey Sifter is the teenage son of working-class parents in the ultimate company town. Fortune comes calling when Corey’s work ethic catches the eye of the patriarch of the Metarey family, ancestral owners of the land for miles around.

The Metarey family, one and all, bring Corey into their lives, paying to send him to a prestigious boarding school and involving him in their lives of power.

The story actually stretches over more than three decades, but it revolves around those few years leading up to the presidential campaign of 1972. Corey becomes a lowly, but important aide to the classic liberal Sen. Henry Bonwiller, who, backed by the Metarey influence, seeks the Democratic nomination to dethrone Richard Nixon.

It is at once a story of moral clarity, adult responsibility, and gripping mystery. I’m a sucker for stories about political campaigns, but this is far more than a political thriller. The characters are compelling, flawed, and seductive. And you’ll wish you could meet them all.

It belongs on the shelf for anyone who, like me, adores Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. And I think this will certainly be a finalist on many book-of-the-year lists. It, like several of the picks on today’s show, is an IndieNext selection, what was once called the Book Sense Picks. These books, praised by independent booksellers across the U.S.A., are well worth seeking out.

About the author…decades ago, Canin considered himself a failed writer. So he went to Harvard Medical School and became a doctor. Today, he teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, having returned in triumph to the locus of his “failure.”

He is the author of numerous other works, including the collections, Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief.

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