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American Rust [Paperback]

Philipp Meyer
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Aug 2013
Set in a beautiful but dying Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation that arises from its loss. 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, abandoned homes, and the polluted river. Isaac is the smartest kid in town, left behind to care for his sick father after his mother commits suicide and his sister Lee moves away. Now Isaac wants out too. Not even his best friend, Billy Poe, can stand in his way: broad-shouldered Billy, always ready for a fight, still living in his mother's trailer. Then, on the very day of Isaac's leaving, something happens that changes the friends' fates and tests the loyalties of their friendship and those of their lovers, families, and the town itself. Evoking John Steinbeck's novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust is an extraordinarily moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendance, and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471133702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471133701
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"In Philipp Meyer a new American master is born. A tender chronicle of a civilisation's corrosion, yet always watchful for something in the human soul that remains untarnished, 'American Rust' is a beautiful, bleak and ultimately redemptive masterpiece. The best book to come out of America since 'The Road'." - CHRIS CLEAVE author of THE OTHER HAND/LITTLE BEE

"The American dream dies and is reborn yet again. Set in a beautiful but bleak post-industrial landscape with characters who are compellingly engaging, AMERICAN RUST is a startlingly mature and impressive debut." - Kate Atkinson

'A fine achievement... moving between the panoramic and the personal with engaging confidence' - Sunday Times

'American Rust is so timely that it makes painful as well as enjoyable reading. The novel is a paean to the end of empire . . . Mr Meyer's voice is assured, and the story crackles with narrative tension. He develops his characters with impressive psychological and sociological insight' - The Economist, April 25, 2009

'An elegiac portrait of a disintegrating society' - FT, April 25, 2009

'Do people still think in terms of the Great American Novel - a work of fiction that exactly captures the contemporary spirit of the union? If so, American Rust has GAN stamped all over it. In racing terms it's by Of Mice and Men, out of Huckleberry Finn, ridden by Cormac McCarthy, and trained by Salinger and Kerouac' - Sunday Telegraph

'Meyer wryly acknowledges the literary tradition in which tales like this are often told... and in doing so, avoids its pitfalls. Instead, he gives us a powerful insight in to the lives of America's dispossessed, without patronising the people he writes about: they are victims of their circumstances, but not lameless caricatures. He has fine-tuned the nuances of their voices, from the intensity of Isaac's rapid-fire thoughts, to the circular, defeated thought pattern of Poe's mother, Grace, and the plot is captivating without ever straying into the realm of folksy page-turner.' - Observer

"The American dream dies and is reborn yet again. Set in a beautiful but bleak post-industrial landscape with characters who are compellingly engaging, AMERICAN RUST is a startlingly mature and impressive debut."

'American Rust is so timely that it makes painful as well as enjoyable reading. The novel is a paean to the end of empire . . . Mr Meyer's voice is assured, and the story crackles with narrative tension. He develops his characters with impressive psychological and sociological insight'>

'A novel as splendidly crafted and original as any written in recent decades, American Rust is both darkly disturbing and darkly compelling. Philipp Meyer's first novel signals the arrival of a new voice in American letters' - Patricia Cornwell

'Philipp Meyer's American Rust is written with considerable dramatic intensity and pace. It manages an emotional accuracy, a deep and detailed conviction, in its depiction of character. It also captures a sense of a menacing society, a wider world in the throes of decay and self-destruction' - Colm Tóibín

'This tale of personal struggles and economic depression is captivating, and more than a little resonant with current economic vibrations' --Gay Times April issue

'Having been force-fed John Steinbeck… I'm always just a little wary of any novel that features a double-wide trailer and is set in the industrial wastelands of the country... This first novel surprises you with its sureness of tone, its narrative propulsion and the singular and perceptive way in which it steers clear of all the usual redneck cliches… More than anything, American Rust impresses because it reminds us that even the most archetypal of situations can be given an intriguing remake in the right hands. Meyer never wears his social conscience on his sleeve and he never tries to pander to the reader's metropolitan guilt. And, simultaneously, he does make you want to turn the page. This is a new writer who clearly knows what he is doing' Douglas Kennedy, The Times 11/4

'It's a tragedy of a post-industrial society in decline, old with the poise and energy of a writer firmly in the ascendant. I've had excited conversations about this…This year, Meyer's second novel The Son is set to establish him and win major prizes, I think. He's a force of nature, and quite different from most writers. I find him intriguing and terrifically intense, single-minded in his research and fiercely dedicated to writing. Meyer is someone who is going all the way, and now might be a good time to get in at the start of the journey' --Chris Cleave, Esquire October Issue --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"The American dream dies and is reborn yet again. Set in a beautiful but bleak post-industrial landscape with characters who are compellingly engaging, AMERICAN RUST is a startlingly mature and impressive debut."
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A devastating portrayal of urban decline 30 May 2009
By Christopher Meadows VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This novel carries at its heart the theme of urban and cultural degeneration. The characters within it are constrained by the tapestry of Buell, the town in which they live, and which has, in one way or another, marked them. The backdrop is presented in lovingly unforgiving detail, a steel mill town without an open mill, a rural idyll where everyone is trying to make their way to their next meal, as everything crumbles around them. Perhaps one of the greatest achievements here is in that successful protrayal of rural life in a one-industry town, where the inhabitants are not idealised, or stereotyped, but represented with a refreshing honesty which made this a fascinating read.

Into this world are dropped a pair of unlikely friends, one of whom plans to move on to something better - the other unable to believe in deserving anything better. As all plans do, this one goes terribly wrong - but while this is a book about mistakes, it seems to be mmore one about the consequences of those mistakes, from the gradual and inevitable decline of a small town, to the erosion of the will sand lives of those within it.

Having said that, the novel also explores, with a startling grace, the eseence of the human condition. The reader is treated to cupidity, naivety, and plain old idiocy, all portrayed exceptionally. To counterbalance this, they are given nobility, trust, duty, and an understanding of honour, often from surprising sources. Meyer successfully shines a light under the rock of small town USA, and comes up with the slime - and the diamonds - buried beneath.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, stylised tale of American decline 17 Jun 2009
By Epigone VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This was quite a surprise. The first few pages, with their spare style and orchestrated intensity, had me expecting a fairly conventional thriller - but the story gradually revealed unexpected depth and nuance, whilst never losing pace or atmosphere. There are some fascinating characters to be found in here, as well as the wonderfully realised context of a decaying Pennsylvania mining town. Meyer's evocation of the urban and rural American landscape is impressive and thick with social and cultural connotations.

Meyer uses a tight structure, switching constantly between internal monologues to tell the story of two young men and their families working through the aftermath of the traumatic and morally confusing event that kicks the novel off. Operating within the bounds of genre fiction, he creates characters that both embody and exceed their archetypes - angry young men, small-town cops - and reveal themselves to be complex, crafted and conflicted. The shadow that the initial trauma casts over the characters really drives the story forward, screwing with relationships and putting the two protagonists under constant fear of retribution.

This is a confident, intelligent, subtle and morally complex page-turner with some great writing, impeccable characterisation and a singularly gritty, filmic atmosphere.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake-up call 20 Aug 2009
By J. Charlesworth VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Welcome to post-industrial America. The characters of Phillip Meyer's American Rust drift through life in a Pennsylvania steel town devastated by the moving of industry abroad. Isaac, the smartest boy in town, persuades his aimless best friend, Billy Poe, to leave town with him, but before they even board a freight train, they enter a confrontation with some drifters that leaves a man dead- and one of them must take responsibility. The meat of the novel isn't really in the description of how the boys and their families cope with the fallout from one ill-judged action, but in how they struggle to maintain dignity against all odds.

For such a bleak tale, however, American Rust is surprisingly positive and humane, showing the importance of family and relationships, especially in unforgiving circumstances. Its characters give a human face to economic tragedy- Poe, for example, has seen his parents' relationship crumble and his mother lose all hope of making something of her life. Is it any wonder he feels adrift? Or that everyone expects him to end up in jail, like so many other young men? In its emotional breadth and depth, American Rust is superb, despite the contrived nature of the central events.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More things to admire in men than to despise 16 Oct 2013
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
This impressive American "debut" novel must have flowered from the diverse influences of growing up with book-loving bohemian parents in a tough working-class suburb, dropping out of school to gain raw experiences but somehow getting to college, avidly reading Joyce, Faulkner and Woolf, and carrying first-hand research to the extent of riding freight trains and interviewing men on trial for murder.

Set against the backdrop of the crumbling American dream, as foreign competition knocks the heart out of once thriving steel-making towns, Meyer explores the drama of an unlikely friendship: on one hand, puny and eccentric but brilliant Isaac English, haunted by his mother's suicide and burdened by the task of caring for his cranky invalid father, on the other athletic but indolent Poe who has thrown away the chance to train as a football champion. Both share a confused desire to escape the depressed backwater of Buell, mixed with inertia and a love of the area's natural beauty. When one commits a serious crime, acting on impulse to save the life of the other, who will be blamed and with what outcomes?

After a dramatic opening, the story slips into a slow-paced cycle round the inner thoughts of six linked characters: Isaac, his favoured sister Lee who has managed to escape to Yale and a wealthy marriage, his crippled father Henry, Poe, his long-suffering mother Grace and Harris, the local police chief who fancies her, himself a survivor of the Vietnam war. Sometimes, Isaac's streams of consciousness become too obscure and tedious, the boozy sex between Grace and Harris a little repetitive, the minor scenes, as when Lee or Harris is socialising, too corny or banal.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars As a Steinbeck and Cormac Mcarthy Fan I loved this book
As a Steinbeck and Cormac Mcarthy Fan I loved this book . The story is a page turner yet the prose is beautifully crafted and the World that Philip Meyer creates is genuine and... Read more
Published 8 days ago by jam
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reaf
A beautiful book and thoroughly gripping. It was beautifully intense with a great pace, definitely worth a read. Highly recommended.
Published 13 days ago by freddie
2.0 out of 5 stars Book is not in good condition. Spine very damaged
Book is not in good condition. Spine very damaged. Think it will fall apart by the time the book is read. Not satisfied
Published 27 days ago by Charlie Bridge
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I read The Son by this author, and although I enjoyed it, struggled in places with it. I prefer this book, it is easier to read and the characters come to life so that they are all... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Janie in Suffolk
3.0 out of 5 stars Philipp Meyer gets rave reviews, but I found this ...
Philipp Meyer gets rave reviews, but I found this similar to The Son. It's far more convoluted than it needs to be. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michelle A
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings
I enjoyed this book. It was very well written and the characters were well drawn. Unfortunately I'd read "The Son" first and that was a result wonderful book. An impressive author.
Published 1 month ago by M. Beetham
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Story!
Recommended by Waterstones Bookshop: this is an excellent story, well written and a page turner. I am looking forward to reading 'The Son' Philipp Meyer's latest.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. V. J. Low
5.0 out of 5 stars Pga
I loved this book, gripping till the end. All the characters were beautifully rounded, tortured souls living in a time warp, failed American dreamers victims of forces that spiral... Read more
Published 1 month ago by paul george audain
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
What a beautiful book. Evocative language, some American historical info, believable characters, a brilliant ending. Perfect. I'm going to but 'The Son' now.
Published 2 months ago by AnnieF
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of many sides
My first Philipp Meyer book & I was hooked. Very atmospheric, I was there in the run-down town watching it all unfold. Gripping, sad, unbearable & in small parts uplifting. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lindylou
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