American Rust by Philipp Meyer
I was SO EXCITED to read “American Rust.” I was so looking forward to the story of the dying town in Pennsylvania and the boys dying to escape, only to have something go terribly, terribly wrong. I suppose I thought it would be something like “America, America” (review here). Sure, the plot line is very different, but both are set around blue collar towns that must transition or die.
I think it was much too-high expectations that killed “American Rust” for me. I would have been better off coming at it as the interesting debut novel it is. The story was interesting enough and the characters complex: moral dilemmas, loyalty, appearances in a small town. It just didn’t quite all come together for me. Although it was interesting seeing the story through a variety of eyes, the ever-shifting perspective made it difficult for me to feel empathy for any of the characters. I also didn’t like the style, particularly in the sections from Isaac’s perspective. During Isaac’s sections the narration occasionally switched from third person to second, and then Isaac would begin thinking of himself in third person. It was a stylistic choice, one that many people might enjoy for what it shows them about the character (Isaac is a little unstable), but it drove me batty.
There may be some readers who will really enjoy “American Rust” – in fact, I know there are, I’ve read lots of great reviews, which probably contributed to my too-high expectations, my opinion seems to be the minority (although I’m not the only one to hold it). This is not a bad book by any means, it just didn’t work for me.