American Rust ~ Phillip Meyer

american-rustI’m never quite sure why I have the particular compulsion to finish a book, once started, to its completion. You’d think that after a certain point in the reading life, one would decide that, “enough is enough”. All the books you may want to read will never get read. Why spend some of that precious reading time on something that, having given it a good shot, would have been better left incomplete,

But no. It’s not something that I’ll outgrow – though I understand that many people do outgrow it. It’s in my personality. Ingrained, somehow. Start it, and I must finish. I knew early on that this was not going to touch me in the least. Yet on I read. It’s a sure sign that the reading of a book of moderate size seems to drag on for weeks.

American Rust is, as far as I can tell, supposed to be a novel of the rust belt. At least I gather this from the title. The title is about as close as the novel gets to what it’s trying to say. Having failed to reach that level, we’re left with the rather prosaic story of two families.

One, the English family centers around the two siblings: Lee and Issac. Both smart, perhaps brilliant. Lee is the older sister who got out. Fled the dying town of Buell. Issac is the younger brother who is left holding the bag. Or at least left to care for his failing father. And left trying to figure out why his mother took the easy way out.

Coupled with the brains of Issac is the other side of the coin. Poe, the brawn of the novel, and Issac’s best friend. It’s an odd friendship, to be sure. Poe’s mother, Grace, can never find the right one. Or will never settle for the right  one. Maybe that right one is the town sheriff, Harris. Certainly, its not the husband who keeps leaving and returning.

A mildly interesting group of characters who are completely incapable of  holding up the story on their own. Certainly the grand scheme that fails to materialize, cannot prop up the novel.

Billy Poe and his friend Issac seem to have been inevitably forced along some path, their fate sealed long before the conclusion of the novel. What the reader sees, though, is not the mysterious hand of fate and destiny. No. What the reader sees is the clunky hand of the author.

By a certain age, people had their own trajectory. The best you could do was to try to nudge them into a different course, though for the most part it was like trying to catch a body falling from  a skyscraper.

Please help me, I’m fallin’.

♦♦½

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “American Rust ~ Phillip Meyer

  1. Kat Warren

    Hmmm. I liked this one quite a lot. Probably will be on my best of 2009 reads.

  2. chazzw

    Was I too harsh? Your opinion certainly gives me pause. You know, I’m not a re-reader for the most part. I’ve done it on rare occasions. Yet I’ve always believed that time (as is true with a lot of things) if not everything, goes a long way. If I had read it at another time, I might have had an entirely different take on it. Ever felt that, Kat?. Well, glad you like it. Or I guess really liked it (Best of and all!).

    http://twitter.com/FinestKindBks

  3. Kat Warren

    No, I don’t think you’re too harsh. Some books are one’s cuppa and some aren’t. Also,this is a first novel and there are flaws. But it worked for me. I was so very engaged with the portrait of the physical landscape and the fateful implications of the two young men — this is at least one novel where the ending works very well indeed. So many otherwise fine novels I read fall down at the end.

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