I'm a little late to the "America, America" review section because I only recently was told how good the book is and how much I'd enjoy it. It IS good and I DID enjoy it! I'd read Ethan Canin's "Palace Thief" when it was published a few years ago and thought Canin had a great writer's voice.
This comes out fully in "America, America", the story of two men, Corey Sifter and Liam Metarey, who are bound together by history and personality. Sifter, who narrates the story, flips back and forth in both time and relationship, from the early 1970's to 2008. He is the son of working class people whose talents and intelligence is recognised by Liam Metarey, the scion of a wealthy liberal family in upstate New York. Metarey mentors Corey, arranges for his education at a boarding school and then at Haverford College. At the same time, Corey works around the Metarey estate and becoming involved in the presidential campaign of a Teddy Kennedy/George McGovern-like Democrat in 1971 and 1972. Henry Bonwiller, the candidate, is involved in some shady deals and possibly in the death of a young woman ala Teddy Kennedy's Chappaquidick-like accident.
Sifter grows up and becomes a journalist on an upstate-New York newspaper and in turn mentors another young person.Part of the story is his relating to Trieste the story of the decline of the Metarey empire along with the political ambitions of Henry Bonwiller.
Canin is a spot-on writer of dialogue and character development. All his characters - both major and minor - are beautifully drawn. If you, like me, missed "America, America" when it was originally issued, it's well worth seeking out and reading.
on October 9, 2008
What a relief it is to read a novel that accomplishes what it sets out to do.
I'd never read any of Mr. Canin's works, so I came into this blind. Now I have a canon to dig into, and am relishing the great reading ahead of me.
The tale is sprawling, but not overwrought. It's written in the first-person, but the narrator's voice is not cloying, and he does a wonderful job of retrieving memories, providing perspective. There's humour, sadness, political and human drama...and even some history lessons along the way.
I'll leave a more detailed review to those more adept at them than I...but suffice it to say that I was charmed by 'America America', and will savour its reassurances about the state of North American fiction for a goodly time.