American Rust: Book summary and reviews of American Rust by Philipp Meyer

American Rust

By Philipp Meyer

American Rust

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Book Summary

Set in a beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation—as well as the acts of friendship, loyalty, and love—that arise from its loss. From local bars to trainyards to prison, it is the story of two young men, bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia, and the beauty around them, who dream of a future beyond the factories and abandoned homes.

Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.

Evoking John Steinbeck’s novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust takes us into the contemporary American heartland at a moment of profound unrest and uncertainty about the future. It is a dark but lucid vision, a moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[An] unrelentingly downbeat debut ... the novel's weakness [is] a sense that some of the plot mechanics are arbitrary. Still, Meyer has a thrilling eye ... Fans of Cormac McCarthy or Dennis Lehane will find in Meyer an author worth watching." - Publishers Weekly.

"A Pandora's box of debate for book clubs, this novel is an essential purchase for libraries in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and strongly recommended for all other fiction collections." - Library Journal.

"Despite some contrived plot developments, a grimly powerful hybrid: provocative literary fiction crossed with a propulsive thriller." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by crankyoldcritic
not exactly uplifting, but if you're in a good frame of mind, highly recommended.
I found myself hard pressed not to skip ahead to see what happens to the characters. The story is compelling, but Meyer does stretch it out a bit too long, the main theme, in order to fully explore the inner... Hells that comprise the minds of all the characters. Comparisons to Hemingway, other than for sparseness and simplicity of style are perhaps a bit premature.

I was more interested in the story than all the internal ramblings of the characters, but these were well rendered, although difficult to relate to, as the characters are definitely from my neck of the woods, and all in direr straights than I could imagine.
but I'm not a cowboy, either, and the boys in the border series of C. Mcarthy were in a pretty deep jam too, but I rode with them, so to speak. I want to back away, quickly from those that inhabit Meyer's story. Comparisons to Cormac Mcarthy? It's also a bit early for that, although the utterly hopeless dilemmas of all involved are similar to those in the border stories (and "the road") of Mr. Mcarthy. However, Meyer's characters are not ever having a having a good time. And they do not feel good about anyone they know, or about themselves, or what they are doing, or might someday do. None of them. Ever.

In "The Road", in the most daunting role one could imagine, one imagines the father derives some satisfaction in the daily triumph over death for himself and his son, the hard won few hours more he can be with with his child, and that he holds some small hope at least for his boy against undeniably justified despair.

The characters in "American Rust" seem done in by life before they hit the big crisis in the book, (perhaps as a result of a life full of too large crises) and can't seem to muster up anything other than despair, or a moment's whimsical self-delusion. Maybe for me it's too realistic a portrayal of life in the rust belt. Fine. But don't read it if you're even a bit depressed. it will not lift you up.

I realize I've said as much about other authors as of Meyers, but printing on the book jacket the glowing reviews and comparisons to the large body of masterworks of 2 of the greatest authors of the last 100 years invites at least a few words of skepticism.

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Author Information

Philipp Meyer Author Biography

Philipp Meyer grew up in a working class neighborhood in Baltimore, the son of an artist and an electrician turned college science instructor. The neighborhood, Hampden, had been devastated by the collapse of various heavy industries, and crime and unemployment were rampant. Meyer attended city public schools until dropping out at age 16 and getting a GED. He spent the next five years working as a bicycle mechanic and occasionally volunteering at Baltimore’s Shock Trauma Center.

At age 20, he began taking classes at a variety of colleges in Baltimore and decided to become a writer. He also decided to leave his hometown, and at 22, on his third attempt at applying to various Ivy League colleges, he was admitted to Cornell University. He graduated with a degree ...

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