Customer Review

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A devastating portrayal of urban decline, 30 May 2009
This review is from: American Rust (Paperback)
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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.

While there were a few strains of narrative which seemed a little awkward at times (enough to avoid a 5 star rating), the core of this novel is absolutely fascinating;the portrayal of people, places and events is honest, and exciting. The plot, basic as it is, is intense, and will leave you turning pages hoping for more - perhaps my greatest complaint is that the conclusion feels sparse and abrupt. But then, perhaps that was the intention.

I had trouble putting this book down, and I'd recommend it - though in some areas it may be a little too visceral, and in others a bit too intense, to make for light summer reading - the text seems to demand more from the reader. That said, read this novel - you won't be disappointed.
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