American War: A novel
Set between 2075 and 2095, American War presents a vision of the future eerily reminiscent of the past. A second civil war is raging between the North and South, the United States once again splitting at the seams, although by now global warming has risen sea levels to the point where Florida is completely underwater and the Northern capital has been forced inland to Columbus. Sarat Chestnut, a young girl in 2075 who spends her formative years in a refugee camp, is recruited to aid the Southern cause and soon commits some of the most significant acts of the war.
American War, however, “isn’t a story about war. It’s about ruin.” There’s a concerted effort to find a more intimate human story in the midst of this war, so the focus remains mostly on Sarat and the Chestnut family, although the book perhaps suffers from its narrowed focus. There’s a sense that, by focusing on only one family, the book doesn’t take full advantage of its sprawling, fascinating wartime context. The war and its horrors are always present but not always prominent; the war defines Sarat while being reciprocally defined by her and seemingly no one else.
Omar El Akkad