American RustBook - 2009
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.
Newsweek's list of "Best. Books. Ever"
A Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2009
A New York Times Notable Book of 2009
An Economist Best Book of 2009
A Kansas City Star Top 100 book of 2009
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Best Books of 2009
Idaho Statesman's Best Books of 2009
From the critics
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You ought to be able to grow up in a place and not have to get the hell out of it when you turn eighteen.
It was like this all up and down the river and many of the young people, the way they accepted their lack of prospects, it was like watching sparks die in the night...He didn't see how the country could survive like this in the long run; a stable society required stable jobs, there wasn't anything more to it than that.
There was something particularly American about it--blaming yourself for bad luck--that resistance to seeing your life as affected by social forces, a tendency to attribute larger problems to individual behavior. The ugly reverse of the American Dream.
Farther along she couldn't help noticing the old coal chute stretching the length of the hillside, passing high over the road on its steel supports, the sky visible through its rusted floor; the iron suspension bridge crossing the river. It was sealed at both ends, its entire structure similarly penetrated and pocked by rust. Then it seemed there was a rash of abandoned structures, an enormous steel- sided factory painted powder blue, its smokestacks stained with the ubiquitous red- brown streaks, its gate chained shut for how many years, it had never been open in her lifetime. In the end it was rust. That was what defined this place. A brilliant observation. She was probably about the ten millionth person to think it.
it was a quaint town: neat rows of white houses wrapping the hillside, church steeples and cobblestone streets, the tall silver domes of an Orthodox cathedral. A place that had recently been well- off, its downtown full of historic stone buildings, mostly boarded now. On certain blocks there was still a pretense of keeping the trash picked up, but others had been abandoned completely. Buell, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Fayette- nam, as it was often called.
Poe and Isaac, so far apart—Poe because of his talent for everything physical, Isaac because of his mind. The truth was they were both the best at what they did in that school. It was a special sort of small- town bitterness that must have thrived on seeing them both fail.
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